As the pads get close to coming on around the NFL, the Steelers are moving forward without Le'Veon Bell.
The star running back is holding out after being unable to work out a long-term deal with Pittsburgh this offseason. The Steelers have slapped the franchise tag on him -- giving him the option to play this year under a one-year contract worth $12.12 million.
But Bell is playing hardball and hasn't signed that deal yet, putting the two sides at a standstill. The Steelers can't fine Bell for missing camp since he's not under contract, but Bell also won't get paid this year if he never shows up.
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Somebody will have to blink.
How much damage will be done by that point? Bell's refusal to show up at the beginning of camp wasn't a huge surprise, and it very well might end within a week or two with little harm done for either side.
Bell, after all, missed three entire games to start the 2016 season due a suspension and still managed to come in and rack up nearly 2,000 yards of total offense in an abbreviated year.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is taking a wait-and-see approach with the situation, but has also projected confidence that Bell will be ready to go.
"Obviously I would like him to be here," Tomlin said as camp got underway, via ESPN.com. "I'm going to focus my energies on the guys who are. It's an unfortunate circumstance, one that we'll deal with, one that he'll deal. I've had good, clean communication with him. I'll leave the nature of those conversations between us. But rest assured that he'll be ready to play football.?
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An oddsmaker also believes Bell will most likely be ready to play when the season comes around.
Market-setting offshore sportsbook BookMaker.eu revealed odds for whether or not Bell will report to the Steelers' facility by Sept. 3, which marks the beginning of the first week of the season.
Before 9/3/17 -150 (Wager $150 to gain $100)
After 9/3/17 +130 (Wager $100 to gain $130)
Assuming he'll be back remain the safe bet.
Holdouts of this nature, more often than not, are resolved before the season starts. Bell will begin to cost himself millions if he misses game time, and with the Steelers set to contend for a title this year, they also have plenty of motivation to get him in camp.
But there must be some give and take from both sides. Though he's one of the most dynamic players in the league, Bell must realize the Steelers have concerns about his durability and discipline issues.
Pittsburgh must acknowledge that it likely can't make it all the way without him.
Once that's all on the table, the two sides should be able to come to a deal that works for both sides -- at least for now.