Rooney hopeful Steelers can reach deal with Bell

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Steelers have no plans on moving on from All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell.

Team president Art Rooney II is optimistic the team can sign Bell to a long-term extension going into the 2018 season, but didn’t rule out using the franchise tag for a second straight year as a precaution if the two sides can’t come to an agreement before free agency begins next month.

While allowing that contract negotiations can be hard to predict, Rooney stressed Wednesday that “the good news is both sides want to get something done and hopefully that will lead us to getting it done.”

Bell played under the franchise tag this season after rejecting a new contract last summer. He responded by leading the NFL in touches (406) while finishing with 1,946 total yards and 11 touchdowns to earn his second All-Pro spot in four years as the Steelers finished 13-3 and won their second straight AFC North title before being upset in the divisional round by Jacksonville.

Bell told ESPN in the run-up to the playoff loss he would consider sitting out 2018 or retiring if Pittsburgh used the franchise tag again, but softened his stance prior to the Pro Bowl, saying he believes he’s close to signing a new deal, one that would likely make him the highest-paid back in the league.

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