Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell has until Tuesday to decide if he's going to sign the franchise tender and rejoin his team for the 2018 season.
Bell rejected a five-year, $70 million contract in the offseason and has yet to return to the Steelers, despite promising to sign the franchise tender and be ready for the Week 1 opener.
But speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio, team owner Art Rooney explained that the Steelers expect the 26-year-old Bell to finally return to the club before Tuesday's deadline.
"I don't know what his plans are, but I would say at this point we expect him to come back next week," he said. "We know he's back in Pittsburgh, and so we're hoping to have some communications with him over the weekend, and we're kind of expecting he will be back next week."
The Steelers haven't been playing like team that has needed Bell, however. They crushed the red hot Carolina Panthers 52-21 on Sunday Night Football, notching their fifth consecutive win and moved to 6-2-1 on the season.
Second-year running back James Conner has filled in nicely for Bell, rushing for 771 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Pittsburgh would obviously welcome back the Pro Bowl running back, but the offense clearly hasn't missed him.
If Bell - who stands to make a lot of money as a free agent this offseason - doesn't sign with Pittsburgh on Tuesday, he won't be eligible to play for them at all in 2018. That would severely ruin his free agent value, and it would cost Bell the prime opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl championship.
Things got tense in the Steel City in the early stages of the 2018 season. Pittsburgh stat at 1-2-1 on the season, the offense was often out of sync and Bell began posting a series of cryptic tweets. But right now, no team in the AFC looks more dominant than the Steelers. And if they get Bell back? This team will be vying for the conference Championship in two months.