Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

Bell carries Steelers to win over Bengals

Associated Press

Associated Press

Running back Le’Veon Bell is expected to return to action for the Steelers’ game against the Browns next Sunday at Heinz Field.

With the Super Bowl over, the 2019 offseason is officially underway for the NFL.

And for the Steelers, that means it’s time for some important business, most notably what to do with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

Odds are heavily against either playing for the Steelers in 2019, but there are definitely some things that need to happen before that occurs.

First will be the Steelers’ decision about whether they want to use the transition tag on Bell this year after placing the franchise tag on him the previous two seasons.

That obviously didn’t work out well last year, as Bell sat out the season, but the Steelers wouldn’t be tagging him this year in an effort to keep him. It would be to get something in return for him this year as opposed to next.

The idea is to get another team to work out a deal with Bell, which the Steelers would then have a right to match under the rules of the transition tag. The Steelers would then have a week to work out a trade with the new team that would involve a draft pick this year as opposed to waiting to get a compensatory pick for Bell next year.

It’s a gamble, to be sure, in more ways than one.

The league and the Steelers will contend Bell’s transition tag salary should be $9.5 million. Bell and the NFLPA will contend it should be $14.5 million, a 120 percent raise from his 2017 salary.

NFL teams can begin using transition and franchise tags Feb. 19 and must do so by March 5. So, the next round of dispute between the Steelers and Bell could begin soon if the Steelers choose to go that route.

Of course, if the Steelers do use the transition tag on Bell and can’t work out a trade with the team that does sign him, then it would mean they’ll receive no compensation.

That’s why the Steelers are still on the fence about what to do in this situation.

The Steelers should seriously consider bringing Bell back if the price tag isn’t too high. Let’s say, for example, the best offer he gets on the free-agent market is $50 million over four years.

The Steelers could match that – it’s less than they offered him last offseason – and pair him with James Conner, much the same way New Orleans uses Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.

Given the Steelers’ situation with Brown – a trade seems likely – it figures to go to a more run-heavy attack in 2019 to offset the loss of its top playmaker.

Would Bell be welcomed back into the locker room after everything that’s happened? It’s more than likely. One of the reasons there was so much said when he didn’t report last season was because the players in that locker room understand how important he is to winning.

  • The situation with Brown continues to spiral downward.

The latest incident was a domestic dispute in which police were called. No charges were filed, but the league will investigate, and even without charges, it can punish Brown.

It’s looking less and less likely the Steelers will get a first-round pick for Brown. A more realistic price might be a second-round pick and a player.

  • If there was one thing that came out of the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Rams in the Super Bowl, it’s that defense still matters in the NFL.

There was starting to be some serious questions about that, given some of the scores we’ve seen the past few seasons.

Some called the Super Bowl boring because there were only 16 points. But there were that few points because both teams played good defense.

  • As hard as it might be to believe, Pirates pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton, Fla., next week.
  • The Alliance of American Football League kicked off action Saturday night and Waynesburg native Scott Orndoff was part of the event, playing for the Orlando Apollos. The new league has two more games today.

Orndoff, a tight end who played at Pitt after a stellar career at Seton-La Salle High School, went to training camp in 2017 with the Steelers but an injury led to his release.

He has since bounced around with Detroit, Cincinnati and Jacksonville before signing on to play in the fledgling AAF this spring.

The AAF includes eight franchises this season. It’s the brainchild of filmmaker Charlie Ebersol and former NFL general manager Bill Polian. Its leadership board includes former Steelers stars Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu.

The new spring league’s games will be televised by CBS.

Orndoff is hardly the only player people will recognize in the games. A number of former Steelers players or draft picks are on AAF rosters, including former WVU linebacker Terence Garvin with Orlando, quarterback Zach Mettenberger with Memphis and cornerback Doran Grant with Atlanta.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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