The Pittsburgh Steelers made the inevitable move official.
The team franchise tagged running back Le'Veon Bell Tuesday prior to the 4 p.m. ET deadline.
Sides now have until July 16 to work out a multiyear deal. The second tag for Bell in two seasons will pay the running back $14.544 million in 2018. As in 2017, the Steelers used the exclusive tag, meaning Bell can only negotiate with Pittsburgh.
The move became a formality when the sides couldn't hammer out a long-term deal to their satisfaction.
"We're not coming to a number we both agree on -- they are too low, or I guess they feel I'm too high," Bell told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler on Monday. "I'm playing for strictly my value to the team. That's what I'm asking. I don't think I should settle for anything less than what I'm valued at."
Pivoting forward, the question is when Bell will sign the franchise tender. Last year he sat out the entire offseason and training camp, not reporting until Sept. 1, 2017, to ink his $12.1 million tender. Bell got off to a slow start to the season, but still compiled 1,291 rushing yards (third-most in NFL) and nine TDs on 321 carries, adding 85 receptions (second-most on Steelers) for 655 yards and two TD snags.
Bell has consistently discussed his desire to reset the running back market. Unless the Steelers acquiesce or Bell surprisingly backs down, sides could struggle to agree on a long-term solution.
If a deal isn't struck by mid-July, don't expect Bell to show up for workouts, as much as Pittsburgh's brass would like to avoid a facsimile of last year's situation.