Steelers linemen are reportedly not happy about running back Le'Veon Bell's continued holdout. While Bell has yet to appear or sign his franchise tag, his teammates are speaking out about his absence.
With the team's Week 1 game against the Browns rapidly approaching, veteran guard Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh's player representative, spoke candidly about his frustrations with Bell's ongoing holdout.
"He's making 7 times what I make twice as much as Al (Villanueva) is making and we're the guys who do it for him," Foster said, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
He added: "What do you do? Here's a guy who doesn't give a damn, I guess so we'll just treat it as such. I just hate that it came to this."
Foster is playing under a three-year, $9.6 million deal. Alejandro Villanueva, coming off a 2017 Pro Bowl season, is playing on a four-year, $24 million deal. Both players are key members of the team's offensive line and play a role in Bell’s on-field success. Bell, on the other hand, is set to earn $14.54 million this season alone under the franchise tag.
The guard also cited his frustrations with Bell's concern about injury when, Foster said, linemen are the players doing the actual blocking.
"I think we're all disappointed," Steelers All-Pro guard David DeCastro said, per Bouchette. "What's the expression? We're stuck with out foot in our mouth. We all thought he'd be here."
Center Maurkice Pouncey commented, "The business part...I get it. But not if it's game day. We have a game this Sunday, we're all the way into the game plan and you're still not here?"
"Obviously it's Le'Veon over the Steelers and we are the Steelers," Pouncey added, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Some players took even stronger stances, with an unidentified teammate saying that he waited a day to criticize Bell to give him a chance to come in Wednesday but "he f---ed us," per Fowler.
The comments came after Bell failed to report again for meetings on Wednesday morning, multiple sources reported.
Foster summed up his reaction with this Tweet:
The holdout marks the running back's second straight summer skipping training camp and preseason games. Last year he reported nine days before the Steelers' Week 1 game, and this year will be even closer. Bell will have to play under the franchise tag for a second season on a one-year, $14.54 million contract after he was unable to reach a long-term deal with the team before the July 16 deadline.
Adisa Bakari, Bell's agent, told NFL LIVE on Wednesday that the running back would "do the things necessary to protect his value long-term."
He cannot return to the team until he signs the tender. Whether or not the Steelers star will report in time for Week 1 is still unknown, but Bell on the field this Sunday is looking less and less likely with each passing day.