Steelers franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger said he texted running back Le'Veon Bell Tuesday before the 4 p.m. deadline hoping that his now-former teammate would show up in time. Roethlisberger told reporters Wednesday morning that he never heard back.
“I texted him yesterday, didn’t hear back, and wish him nothing but the best, he was a great teammate and football player,” Roethlisberger said before practice Wednesday. “To each their own what they want to walk away from.”
The veteran signal caller wasn't the only one who did not receive a response from Bell. Head coach Mike Tomlin revealed Tuesday, before Bell did not show up for his 4 p.m. deadline to maintain eligibility to play this season, that he received a similar silence from his former star.
Tomlin acknowledged to reporters that it was unusual to have a player ignore every single one of his texts, calls and "smoke signals," as Bell had all season long, but added that he understood Bell was making a business decision.
"I understand that business is an element of this," he said. “There are elements of the game – relationships within the game, football-related relationships that we all hold near and dear and understand – and then in football at this level there also is a business element. Even when we don’t understand it, we’re sensitive to it. So we’re not shocked when things happen from a business standpoint.”
Tomlin confirmed that he had no communication with Bell before the deadline. The two-time All-Pro running back will become an unrestricted free agent this winter.
Bell, 26, has been in the middle of a long contract dispute with the team. He missed training camp and sat out the entire regular season before failing to sign his franchise tender for the season on Tuesday. Bell was set to make $14.5 million this season, losing $855,529 for very week he missed of the season before forfeiting the remainder of his salary when he was a no-show at the deadline.
A second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Bell had 7,996 total yards and 42 touchdowns in 62 games as a starter for the Steelers. He did miss several games with knee injuries in both 2014 and 2015 that prevented Bell from playing in the team’s post-season run in either of those seasons and due to a groin injury that prevented Bell finishing the 2016 AFC Championship Game.