The team hoped Bell would show up for work this week, but Bakari told Football Live that Bell is "going to do the things necessary to protect his value long-term."
Bell is arguably the game's most productive running back. His average of 128.9 total yards per game is the highest clip for a player's first five seasons since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
A source told ESPN that the Steelers have no plans to rescind Bell's tender, and league sources say a trade would be difficult to execute because of Bell's position and teams' unwillingness to inherit a franchise-tagged player.Le'Veon Bell did not report to the Steelers' facility for Wednesday morning meetings and has not signed his $14.5 million franchise tag, setting the stage for James Conner to start Sunday at Cleveland.
Conner will get first-team reps this week, and teammates have praised his development. In the preseason, Conner produced 100 rushing yards on 19 carries along with 64 receiving yards.
Linebacker Vince Williams said Conner has "turned the page" with play resembling a savvy veteran.
When asked directly about Bell, guard Ramon Foster pivoted to Conner. "I trust James," he said. "He's ready."
James Conner returned from a serious knee injury and cancer diagnosis to compile a 1,000-yard rushing season in his final year at Pitt. James Conner Jersey .
After a year of limited activity in the NFL, Conner isn’t about to sweat his chance to replace Le’Veon Bell as the feature running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I get the opportunity to play the game again,” Conner said. “I’m excited. Anytime I can play football, I don’t take it for granted.”