Le'Veon Bell is ready (physically) for the start of training camp

Getty Images

Getty Images

"Le'Veon is scheduled to play this year under the Exclusive Franchise Tag designation". Villanueva's situation is very different than Tuitt's when it comes to leverage, however, because the Steelers can easily retain the former undrafted free agent after the 2017 season is over with a second-round restricted tender.

The running back will play under the exclusive franchise tag in Pittsburgh for $12.1 million, the team announced Monday.

Despite intense negotiations between the two sides, the gap between demand and offer was too wide to bridge.

Pittsburgh could be on the hook for a much larger payout to Bell next season if he performs for a full and healthy season anywhere near the level he played at past year.

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For the Steelers' part, they seem to think that Bell will be ready to go once camp starts. But Bell is looking for a long-term commitment in terms of guaranteed cash. Although he's expected to be fine for Week 1, Bell will take the field without the security of a long-term deal to remain with the Steelers.

Bell especially shined in Week 14, when he set the franchise regular-season rushing record in a single game with 236 yards.

NFL Network ranked Bell the No. 9 overall player in its 2017 rankings, in part for his elite receiving ability with 227 career catches. Bell wants to be compensated not just for running the ball, but also paid in line with his pass-catching ability.

Bell, who is coming off groin surgery that limited him in the Steelers' loss to New England in January's AFC Championship, has yet to sign his franchise tag, and it's not know whether he'll report to training camp on time.

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