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Le’Veon Bell: Steelers set artificial deadline of Feb. 20 to get new deal done

Le’Veon Bell throughout this week has been expressing confidence that he and the Pittsburgh Steelers can hammer out a long-term deal.

That does not mean, however, that Bell nor the Steelers are willing to be excessively patient for the process to play out.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Bell revealed the Steelers have set Feb. 20 as an “artificial deadline” to get the deal done. Bell stated doing so is “definitely the goal.”

As noted in Fowler’s tweet, the Feb. 20 date carries added significance due to it’s the first day a player can be hit with the franchise tag. The Steelers clearly doesn’t want that hanging over complex negotiations.

Bell was asked on Thursday why things seem to be so much different than last year when contract talks stalled and the running back played under the franchise tag.

“Because I think we’re a lot closer this year at this point of the offseason rather than last year,” Bell said, via Steelers Depot. “I’m confident and like I said, both sides, we’ve been happy with the progression we’ve made and I’m excited.”

Bell also stated on Thursday that it’s “very important” for him to set the bar for future running back deals. The importance of running backs has been devalued in recent seasons, and Bell hopes to recalibrate the market in a positive direction for his fellow ball-carriers.

Bell made $12.12 million this past season under the tag and stands to earn $14.54 million during the 2018 season should it be applied again. However, that appears unlikely to happen, as Bell previously threatened to hold out or even retire should the Steelers tag him again.

That said, the events of this week point to the notion that at least the Steelers and Bell seem to be on the same page and headed in the right direction.