Three weeks before the deadline to sign a long-term contract with the Steelers, running back Le'Veon Bell is optimistic the two sides will come to terms on a deal.
If the Steelers and Bell do not agree to a deal by July 16, he must play the 2018 season under the terms of the $14.55 million franchise tender the team applied to him in March.
It almost certainly would be his final season with the Steelers.
“We're a lot closer than we were last year at this time,” Bell said Monday night on NFL Network. “That's what I'm happy about. None of that matters if we don't get it done. Hopefully, we'll try to get something done. That's what I'm looking forward to. I've got confidence we'll get it done.
“I want to do it.”
The mid-July deadline came and went last year without Bell getting a long-term deal, and he played the season on a $12.12 million franchise tender. Without the long-term contract, Bell did not report to training camp and signed his franchise tender just six days before the start of the season opener.
Bell got off a slow start, and that was attributed to the team's 3-2 record after five games.
Bell finished the season as the NFL's third-leading rusher. He was voted the NFL's fifth-best player Monday night.
Bell was asked what he would do differently this summer if a long-term deal isn't reached, and he doesn't report to training camp again.
Bell indicated he would take an identical stance as last season if he doesn't sign a new contract.
“It's just getting back in the groove with the offense,” he said. “When you're not in there in camp, minicamp, OTAs and things like that, they find different rhythms with different backs in there — whatever player they put in that spot that I would be in. I've got to find a way to get back quicker.”
Bell indicated he would put in extra work with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if he skips training camp. But Bell said he would prefer to be at Saint Vincent when the Steelers report July 25.
“I don't want to have … what happened last year,” Bell said. “If it came down to it, then I've got to do what I've gotta do, take my stand and protect myself. But I don't want to have to do that. I want to go to camp and play for the Steelers long term.”