Le’Veon Bell might be the Steelers‘ most important player heading into Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. And the good news is that he’ll be on the field for the divisional matchup. But based on recent comments, Bell has every intention of sitting out the 2018 season — and perhaps even retiring — should the Steelers again use the franchise tag on him.

But that’s a conversation for another time, at least according to Bell, who tweeted this shortly after news broke that he could take 2018 off.

The first order of business is a rematch with the Jaguars. Jacksonville shellacked the Steelers, 30-9, back in Week 5. In that game, Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 55 times against the NFL‘s best defense and the results were … something else. Big Ben had five interceptions, including two pick-sixes. Bell, meanwhile, only had 15 carries even though Jacksonville’s run defense ranks is among the league’s worst.

“I don’t think we got enough attempts,” Bell said after the 21-point loss, adding, “I feel we’re a good enough team to wear guys out whether they know we’re running the ball or not.”

We can’t envision that happening again, even if the Jags have success early keeping Bell in check. The answer isn’t to abandon the run altogether but to find other ways to use one of the Steelers’ most dynamic players — and this could includes certain passing situations.

For as dominant as Jacksonville’s pass defense is, it’s just a replacement-level unit against running backs. Bell is one of the league’s best pass-catching backs (he caught 10 passes for 46 yards in the first meeting) and it stands to reason he could again be a focal point.

If the Steelers get by the Jaguars (they’re 7-point favorites), they’ll likely face the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Any chance to beat New England in New England will involve a heavy dose of Bell. But whenever Pittsburgh’s 2017 season ends, Bell’s future with the team will be the biggest story line of the offseason (assuming Roethlisberger doesn’t retire).

The Steelers franchised Bell before the 2017 season after the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a long-term deal. The good news: Bell earned more than $12 million this season. The bad news: It’s a one-year deal, which means his contract is up in a few weeks. Ideally, Bell could get that aforementioned long-term deal. The Steelers could also choose to use the franchise tag, a prospect Bell clearly doesn’t welcome.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I would definitely consider it,” Bell told ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler on Thursday.

Bell is one of the league’s most dynamic players. He’s as dangerous a runner as he is a pass catcher and he wants to be compensated as such. Given that he left $18 million in guaranteed money on the table in 2017 it’s reasonable to think that his thinking hasn’t wavered.

“Just get the numbers straight, exactly where we want them. I’m not going to settle for anything,” Bell told Fowler. “I know what I do and what I bring to the table. I’m not going out here getting the ball 400 times if I’m not getting what I feel I’m valued at.”

Bell protested the franchise tag by holding out of training camp, and it wasn’t until Week 4 that he put up a typical dominating performance.  Bell is willing to hold out much longer than that — but for now his focus remains on one thing: Bringing another Lombardi Trophy to Pittsburgh.


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