Michael Wyke/Associated Press
As Schefter noted, Bell has now forfeited $1.7 million of the $14.5 million salary that the franchise tag provides.
Bell’s absence is not technically considered a holdout because the veteran is not currently under contract, but he will not be in uniform for Week 2 regardless of the label.
The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell for the second consecutive year as the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on a long-term deal. While he reported nine days before the season opener a year ago, he has yet to sign the franchise tender this time around, nor has he given a timeline on when he will do so.
And that has ruffled feathers in the locker room.
“If you don’t want to be here, it is what it is, hold out 10 games, as a team we’re totally fine,” Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey said last week, per KDKA 2. “This is a team sport and we all know that. I really thought he was going to be here, obviously he proved a lot of us wrong.”
Another offensive lineman also voiced his displeasure with the running back.
“What do you do? here’s a guy who doesn’t give a damn, I guess so we’ll treat it as such. I just hate it came to this,” guard Ramon Foster said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ed Bouchette. “He’s making seven times what I make twice as much as Al (Villanueva) is making and we’re the guys who do it for him.”
Bell appears to be willing to sacrifice money in the short term in order to earn more down the road. League rules prohibit tagged players from negotiating extensions with teams at this point in the year.
The veteran piled up more than 400 touches last year while serving as the team’s No. 1 back (321 carries) and a major threat out of the backfield (85 receptions). Of course, a heavy workload puts him at greater risk for injury.
Without Bell in Week 1, Pittsburgh turned to second-year running back James Conner, who ran for 135 yards, two touchdowns on 31 carries in a 21-21 tie against the Cleveland Browns. He also lost a fumble in the game. He will likely once again receive the majority of the snaps in the backfield next to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.