Team officials and players for the Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to hear from Le'Veon Bell despite the star running back's claim that he plans to report to the club prior to its game on Oct. 28, ESPN reported on Sunday.
Bell hasn't revealed his hand as to exactly when he plans to return prior to the Steelers' game against the AFC North rival Cleveland Browns. He could return any time between Monday and Oct. 22, ESPN reported, citing sources.
The Steelers (2-2-1) visit the Cincinnati Bengals (4-1) on Sunday before heading into their bye week. A mandate in the collective bargaining agreement says players must have four consecutive days off during their bye week.
Bell has yet to sign his $14.5 million franchise tag with the Steelers, who have turned to James Conner in his absence. Conner has rushed 84 times for 342 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 22 receptions for 239 yards this season.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, in fact, doesn't want to see Conner relegated to the bench when the three-time Pro Bowl selection returns to the team.
"Now granted, I think Le'Veon's one of the best in the business, I think we all understand that and can agree on that," Roethlisberger said Tuesday on 93.7 The Fan, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"But what James needs to understand -- and he's gonna say the right things, and he should [as] a younger guy with a veteran, awesome football player ahead of him -- but when Le'Veon comes back, in no way, shape or form should James just say, 'OK, it's all yours. I'm gonna sit back and when you need me, use me.'
"And I will push for James to get as much run as we can because we've seen some great things from him in all phases of football. He's picking up blitzes, he's catching the ball, he's running hard and making plays and playing with a passion, so we need to keep using that."
Pittsburgh has been exploring trade options for Bell and has been asking a steep price, notably at least a second-round draft pick in addition to another "good" player, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported.
For Bell to be traded, he would have to sign his franchise tender.
If Bell isn't moved prior to the Oct. 30 trade deadline, the 26-year-old has until Nov. 13 to sign his tender in order to accrue a season toward free agency.
Bell struggled out of the blocks in 2017 before finishing the season with 1,291 rushing yards and 85 receptions for 655 yards. Bell was named All-Pro for the second time.