By Nick Shook
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Kevin Colbert isn’t concerning himself with Le’Veon Bell‘s much-discussed long-term contract aspirations, and for good reason: There’s no need to at this point in time.
The Steelers GM intimated as much during a one-on-one interview with NFL Network’s Steve Wyche on Sunday during the NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Florida.
“We’re still hopeful, Steve,” Colbert said of getting a multi-year deal done with the star running back. “When you make that decision, you’re obviously in negotiations prior to making the tag as we did, but once you make the tag, you move onto other business that’s more pertinent at this point, and that’s dealing with free agency and draft preparations. We still want to get through that period and then we’ll address it at the appropriate time, but our long-term goal has always to have Le’Veon be a Steeler for his career.”
Perhaps Pittsburgh will ensure that by striking a deal with Bell, but with the running back under the franchise tag for the second straight season, the Steelers have plenty of time. It makes sense that Colbert turned his focus to free agency and the upcoming draft — after all, with the tag, Bell is under the team’s control — but it’s peculiar to hear Colbert admit as much publicly when a simple “we’re working on it” would have sufficed.
Colbert’s response can be seen as a return shot sent by the franchise after Bell wasn’t shy about intending to sit out of everything except the first week of the season. Bell is important, but he’s still one of 11, and of 53. The GM seemed to signal that with his response.
Of course, everyone knows Pittsburgh wants to keep Bell beyond 2018. But with the turnover at the position and Bell’s desire for a whopper of a contract considered, these two sides might not come close on a deal for quite some time. As Colbert said Sunday, in the meantime, the franchise tag will work just fine.