Running back Le'Veon Bell did not sign his Pittsburgh Steelers franchise tender by Tuesday's deadline as stipulated under the collective bargaining agreement, which means Bell will sit out the entire 2018 season.
Bell will not earn the $14.45 million he was scheduled to make under the tag, and it is unlikely he will ever play for the Steelers again.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert issued the following statement after the deadline:
"I want to confirm that Le'Veon Bell did not sign his franchise tender today and, as a result, he will not be eligible to play football during the 2018 season."
Steelers owner Art Rooney II had expressed hope recently that Bell would rejoin the team for the last part of the season, but it had become increasingly clear in recent weeks that Bell would not sign.
"I understand that business is an element of the game of football," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday before the deadline, according to NFL.com. "And the elements of the game, relationships within the game, football-related relationships that we all hold near and dear and understand. And then, football at this level, there's also a business element. Even when we don't understand it, we're sensitive to it. So we're not shocked when things happen from a business standpoint."
At this point, the Steelers could either let Bell go as a free agent or place him under a transition tag, which is a one-year tender that would be applied in February and would let Bell sign an offer sheet with another team that the Steelers could match to keep him.
Bell had been selected to the Pro Bowl three times and was named a first-team All-Pro twice, including in 2017, when he rushed for 1,291 yards and caught 85 passes for 655 yards.
The Steelers seem to be in good shape without Bell. They are in first place in the AFC North with a 6-2-1 record and have won five games in a row. Bell's replacement, James Conner, is third in the league in rushing, averaging 85.7 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry, and he has caught 39 passes for 387 yards.