Bell unlikely to report by deadline

James Conner injury highlights Steelers running back depth

Pittsburgh Steelers team owner Art Rooney recently expressed his confidence that running back Le'Veon Bell will show up and sign the team's franchise tag offer before the deadline, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that it's not likely to be the case.

Without him, Pittsburgh is now 6-2-1 and leading the AFC North.

Even as the Steelers now brace to lose their marquee running back for the entire season, Bell's camp continues to maintain its cone of silence and repeatedly has declined to address with reporters his plans for the coming week. Therefore the Steelers either could sign him to a more lucrative franchise tag next season or let Bell enter free agency. Whether or not he reports this season, the Steelers would need to use a $25 million franchise tag to keep him in 2019, which is not expected to happen.

Pittsburgh's offense has operated just fine without Bell as James Conner has emerged as one of the best feature backs in the National Football League in Bell's absence.

He rushed for 1,291 yards with nine touchdowns over 15 games in 2017 with the Steelers, his fifth year in Pittsburgh.

The running back is unlikely to end his holdout and report to the team by Tuesday's deadline, according to ESPN.

If the All-Pro running back does not report by the deadline, he will be ineligible to play this season, and his career in Pittsburgh is nearly certainly over.

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