With Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell entering his final season with the team (if his final season hasn’t already been played), the team got a glimpse of the future on Thursday night, courtesy of second-year running back James Conner.
Conner, whose rookie season was limited by injury, rushed for 57 yards on five carries against the Packers at Lambeau Field. His effort included a 26-yard touchdown run.
The Steelers surely hope that Conner can become the successor to Bell in 2019. But with Conner making $578,000 for the year and with Bell due to make more than $855,000 per week, the Steelers have to at least be wondering about the wisdom of stripping the franchise tag from Bell and redirecting his $14.54 million franchise-tag salary elsewhere.
With Bell in the final months of his tenure with the team anyway, and given the potential tension between the Steelers trying to get the most out of Bell and Bell trying to keep himself healthy for free agency (especially late in the regular season, as Bell’s payday creeps closer and closer), it could make sense to go their separate ways now.
If the Steelers wait another week or two to strip the tender, Bell would end up in a potentially delicate spot. Most teams would be ready to go for the coming season, making it hard for him to get the $14.54 million on the open market he’s due to get in Pittsburgh — and even harder to get $17 million per year on a long-term deal.
Source: Pro Football Talk