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Without deal, Le'Veon Bell and Steelers prepare for 16-game standoff

From ESPN - July 17, 2017

PITTSBURGH -- Now the fun begins.

One of the most prolific players in the NFL will play on a one-year contract for a Super Bowl contender after the franchise tag deadline passed Monday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had hoped that would not be Le'Veon Bell's reality. For months, they have wanted to sign him to a long-term deal. But Bell was toting the $12.1-million rock, thanks to this year's franchise tag. He was not going to undermine his own leverage. So now he's betting on himself with a one-year audition, just like his old Michigan State teammate Kirk Cousins.

Both sides are squaring up for an even bigger staredown next offseason, assuming Bell continues to pump MVP numbers into the Steelers' offense.

That both sides are here is surprising. Bell was clearly the team's best player last year after averaging 157 yards per game. Despite a history of injuries and suspensions, many around the league figured a deal of around $10 million per year would get this done.

This is a win-lose situation for Bell.

The loss: The volatility of the running back market forces Bell to add one more year of heavy workload, plus he already has proven what he can do. What more is there to prove, besides staying healthy?

The win: The 2018 franchise tag is around $14.5 million. If he's indispensable next year -- and he undoubtedly was last season -- the Steelers might owe close to $27 million in franchise money over two seasons.

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