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Steelers place franchise tag on Bell

The Steelers want to keep Le’Veon Bell in a Steelers uniform, and they moved in that direction when they placed the franchise tag on him. This is the second consecutive year that Bell has had the franchise tag placed on him, therefore the tender differs from those previously announced by the NFL. Bell will receive a one-year tender worth a reported $14.544 million, a percentage increase over his $12.12 million tender in 2017. The Steelers have until July 16 to reach a long-term contract with Bell, at which point he would have to play under the one-year tender.

Bell, the Steelers second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, has carried the ground game since his arrival in Pittsburgh, smashing records along the way. In his five seasons Bell has rushed for 5,336 yards, with 36 touchdowns, and has caught 312 passes for 2,660 yards and seven touchdowns.

He currently is fourth on the team’s all-time rushing list with his 5,336 yards, passing Hall of Famer John Henry Johnson, who had 4,381 yards, this season. He is close to passing Willie Parker, who has 5,378 yards, for third place in team history.

Bell finished the 2017 season as the NFL’s third-leading rusher with 1,291 yards on 321 carries, averaging 86.1 yards per game and 4.02 yards per carry, and scored a career-high nine rushing touchdowns. He also had 85 receptions, breaking his own Steelers record for most receptions by a running back in a season, for 655 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He also finished second in the NFL, and first in the AFC, in yards from scrimmage with 1,946 yards.  

Bell eclipsed the 1,200-yard rushing mark for the third time in his career, and for the second consecutive year. He is the third Steelers running back to record 1,200 rushing yards in consecutive seasons, joining Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis with that distinction. He also surpassed 1,800 yards from scrimmage for the second consecutive season, the first player in team history to do so in consecutive seasons.

Bell set an NFL record for the fewest regular season games to reach 5,000 rushing yards and 2,500 receiving yards, doing so in his 59th career game, which was the Dec. 4 matchup against Cincinnati. The previous record was held by Hall of Famer Marcus Allen, who did it in 63 games. He reached the 7,500 yards from scrimmage mark in the same game, tying Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson for reaching the milestone in just 59 games.

The list goes on. Bell was selected Associated Press All-Pro first team as flex since the team does not have a fullback, and as a second-team running back. He was previously a first-team AP All-Pro selection in 2014 and second-team in 2016. He was also named to the Sporting News All-Pro team, and voted to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year and the third time in his career.

For the second straight year Bell was been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for the final month of the season, which encompasses December and the final regular season game in January.

And for the second straight year he did it while playing in only four of the five games during the month.

During the stretch he had 69 carries for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Bell rushed for 117 yards against the Patriots, his 18th 100-yard game of his career, ranking fifth in Steelers history, and his fourth of the season. He added 24 receptions for 259 yards and two touchdowns during December, and passed Franco Harris for most receptions by a Steelers running back. Against Cincinnati he had five receptions for 106 yards and a 35-yard touchdown catch. Bell led the AFC averaging 142.3 yards from scrimmage per game and led the conference with six touchdowns from scrimmage. He finished third in the AFC with 569 yards from scrimmage.

Bell's 2017 statistics are below, and his full stats are available here.

Rushing Receiving
Week Opp Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
1 @CLE 10 32 3.2 0 3 15 5 0
2 MIN 27 87 3.2 0 4 4 1 0
3 @CHI 15 61 4.1 1 6 37 6.2 0
4 @BAL 35 144 4.1 2 4 42 10.5 0
5 JAX 15 47 3.1 0 10 46 4.6 0
6 @KC 32 179 5.6 1 3 12 4 0
7 CIN 35 134 3.8 0 3 58 19.3 0
8 @DET 25 76 3 1 2 5 2.5 0
10 @IND 26 80 3.1 0 5 32 6.4 0
11 TEN 12 46 3.8 0 9 57 6.3 0
12 GB 20 95 4.8 0 12 88 7.3 0
13 @CIN 18 76 4.2 0 5 106 21.2 1
14 BAL 13 48 3.7 2 9 77 8.6 1
15 NE 24 117 4.9 1 5 48 9.6 0
16 @HOU 14 69 4.9 1 5 28 5.6 0
17 CLE -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
321 1,291 4.0 9 85 655 7.7 2
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