Le'Veon Bell's season is officially over

May JohnsonНоя 14, 2018

As a result of not signing before the league's 4 p.m. ET deadline, Bell won't be eligible to play the remainder of this season and will once again qualify for free agency in March.

The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell for the second time this past off-season, but the 26-year-old has chose to sit out the year and wait for a long-term contract rather than play under the tag, which would have paid him $14.5 million this season.

The Steelers, who have won five straight to sprint to the top of the division heading into a visit to Jacksonville on Sunday, will turn to second-year back James Conner and reserves Stevan Ridley and rookie Jaylen Samuels to help shoulder the load with Bell out of the picture. Although there were reports saying the team expected him to report after its bye week, hope the 26-year-old would show up dwindled, and Bell's teammates grew exhausted of his holdout.

"So be it", Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said a couple hours before the deadline, via NFL.com.

The Steelers explored dealing Bell before the October 30 trade deadline, but no deal was possible without his signature.

Le'Veon Bell looks on during a game at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Rocky franchise-tag negotiations created distance between Bell and the Steelers. He also leads the league with eight runs of 20-plus yards.

"I'm not going to comment on someone who's not in this locker room right now", quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said when asked about Bell after Thursday's 52-21 win over the Carolina Panthers. His teammates stressed it was no big deal, confident Bell would show up in time for the regular-season opener. One veteran player told ESPN anonymously: "He f--ed us".

He already had sacrificed more than £6.56m by missing the first 10 weeks of the season.

And so, we appear to be at the end of Bell's career in Pittsburgh. Everyone is waiting to see if Bell will return to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday.

"I've told you guys and I've told you guys consistently, a reaction comes from me if and when he walks in the door", Tomlin said. In a case like Johnson's, you didn't know when you drafted him that his knee would bend awkwardly due to a tackle in his opening game.

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