LeVeon Bell still has not reported to Steelers camp after not reaching an agreement on a contract extension. At some point, he will have to decide whether to play on the franchise tag and sign his tender.
Rookie running back James Conner (shoulder) has also been out since last Monday, after getting evaluated at a Pittsburgh hospital for his injury.
There's no reason to think Bell won't eventually sign his tender and reward fantasy owners once again, but Pittsburgh is one of the few backfields that has proven to produce a high-value handcuff. We saw it with DeAngelo Williams, but we also saw it with Toussaint in the 2015 postseason when he turned 21 touches into 118 total yards. Bell owners may want to monitor who the back-up is this offseason, as it has produced high volume in years past when Bell has not played.
Bell is expected to hold out for at least part of camp, but has said he would like to play a full 16-game schedule this season, so it seems reasonable if he doesn't arrive for the start, he'll show up at some point in time to get ready for the start of the season. The story was actually about Bell's potential backup in 2017.
Off the field, the Steelers struck a PR coup when they drafted former Pitt star and cancer survivor James Conner in the third round. Conner is already the NFL’s No. 2 leader in jersey sales, but now the question is whether he can be the Steelers' No. 2 running back.
After failing to reach an agreement on a long-term contract extension, Le’Veon Bell is not expected to arrive anytime soon in camp, giving Conner a chance to solidify the No. 2 spot.
Conner was limited in spring practice with a hamstring injury but should be good to go this week in Latrobe where he’ll likely receive the heaviest workload.
Knile Davis, who signed a one-year, $775,000 contract in free agency, brings four years of experience and could finally prove to be the Steelers’ answer at kick returns. As a running back, Davis is a slight upgrade over Fitzgerald Toussaint.
As the story said, this running back “battle” is all a moot point the minute Bell reports. Without a long-term deal in place, there’s even less incentive for the Steelers to lighten Bell’s workload. Bell's backup could prove to have some fantasy value so it's a battle worth watching.