Bell: Contract talks with Steelers ‘closer’ than 2017

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) runs the ball against the New England Patriots during the first quarter at Heinz Field on Dec. 17.Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (file photo)

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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell expressed optimism in regard to working out a long-term contract with the team prior to training camp.

When asked by NFL Network on Monday if he thinks he’ll be in attendance for the start of camp, Bell answered in the affirmative.

“It’s a business,” Bell said. “The people in the organization try to do what’s best for them and I’m trying to do what’s best for me. We’re working on it. We’re a lot closer than we were last year at this time, and that’s what I’m happy about. But none of that matters if we don’t get it done. So 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.”

Bell is set to earn $14.5 million under the franchise tag. He has until July 16 deadline to finalize a long-term contract.

The 26-year-old Bell, who has been hit with the franchise tag for the second year in a row, missed the majority of the Steelers’ offseason last year. He said he is hoping to avoid a repeat of that scenario this summer.

“I don’t want to have the replications of what happened last year,” he said. “But if that came down to that, obviously I got to do what I got to do. Take my stand and protect myself. I don’t want to have to do that. I want to go to camp and play for the Steelers long term.”

Bell ran for 1,291 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns last season while catching a personal-best 85 passes for 655 yards and two scores. He was third in the NFL in rushing yards and 10th in receptions.