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5 possible trade destinations for Steelers star Le’Veon Bell

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Le’Veon Bell has outlasted all other holdouts in the NFL. The 2018 NFL season kicked off on Thursday and the Pittsburgh Steelers are set to make their 2018 debut on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, but there are zero indications Bell will sign the one-year, $14.54 million franchise tag the team laid on his table way back in March.

Le'Veon Bell, Steelers

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That’s a lot of money, but seemingly not enough for Bell, who is fast becoming the NFL’s answer to Latrell Sprewell.

Background on the Le’Veon Bell situation

What Bell wants is a long-term contract that will make him the highest paid running back in the league, but that’s not going to happen as long as the Steelers refuse to rescind the franchise tag offer. Pittsburgh has made it clear that they won’t change their mind, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Amid the events of yesterday involving the #Steelers and their star RB, worth noting: Pittsburgh won’t be rescinding the franchise tag for Le’Veon Bell, I’m told. Obvious. But important. He’ll play for the #Steelers this year, it’s just a question of when.

Holding out isn’t a new tactic for Bell, though, this is likely going to be the first time that he’s going to miss a regular season game because of it. Last year, he also ignored a franchise tag, but eventually signed it just in time for him to get handoffs in Week 1 of the 2017 campaign against the Browns. The strategy is clearly not working for Bell, and his teammates are starting to turn against him, with left guard Ramon Foster and center Maurkice Pouncey failing to keep their frustrations to themselves.

“What do you do? Here’s a guy who doesn’t give a damn,” Foster said to reporters about Bell, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I guess so we’ll treat it as such. I just hate it came to this,” Foster added. Pouncey, meanwhile, was just as direct as Foster when asked about his thoughts, via Tim Benz of TribLive.com.

“Honestly it’s a little selfish. I’m kinda pissed right now. It sucks that he’s not here. we’ll move on as a team. It doesn’t look like he’ll be in the game plan at this point. Conner looks great. We’ll worry about him in week 2.”

Indeed, the Steelers are approaching the Cleveland game as though James Conner is their primary option in the backfield. Conner has shown improvement – at least in the training camp and in the preseason – since he was drafted by Pittsburgh, but he’s still far from being on the same plane as Bell.

Ideally, Bell will be in the backfield this coming Sunday, but with that very unlikely to happen, who knows if the Steelers’ patience has thinned so greatly that they are now thinking of trading the problematic running back, especially with him likely walking in free agency. If the Oakland Raiders managed to stomach shipping top-flight pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears, what’s there to dismiss the idea that the Steelers may follow the same route?

With that said, here are five teams the Steelers could send Le’Veon Bell in a trade.

5. Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Titans

The offseason saw the Titans part ways with running back DeMarco Murray (retirement), handing the keys to the backfield to the pair of Derrick Henry and Tennessee newcomer Dion Lewis. Henry, however, lacks creativity, often resorting to his bulk to smash through defenses, while Lewis isn’t someone Tennessee sees as a bona fide starter.

Trading for Bell will feel like a home run for the Titans, as he would be a scary addition to what Tennessee’s new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur is cooking. The Titans’ offense has gotten rave reviews in the offseason under LaFleur’s scheme, which replaces the dull system Mike Mularkey had in 2017, and it would get even more explosive with Bell taking handoffs and catching passes out of the backfield quarterback from Marcus Mariota.

A tandem of an elite pass-catching tailback in Bell and a dual-threat signal-caller in Mariota would put opposing defenses in a consistent bind.

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