The heat surrounding Le'Veon Bell's absence ratcheted up several degrees on Wednesday, as Pittsburgh Steelers players unpredictably removed the kid gloves and took swipes at the running back through the media.
Mostly lost in the barrage of player quotes questioning Bell's commitment was a terse statement the Steelers organization released in response to the running back's agent, Adisa Bakari.
Despite the discord, the Steelers will not choose the nuclear option.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that Pittsburgh won't be rescinding the franchise tag for Bell, according to a source informed of the decision. Rapoport added there is no indication Bell will report to the team Saturday, the last day he could receive a game check for Week 1.
Speaking to reporters about Bell on Thursday, coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he was upset with the running back not reporting to the team.
"My level of disappointment is never a way to approach business," Tomlin said.
It seems like an obvious statement, but it's worth noting that it is an option on the Steelers' plate -- and perhaps one that Bell's agent was attempting to force, even if it's late in that game for that play. Bell is set to earn $14.45 million on the one-year franchise tag.
Bell must report by Week 10 to accrue a season toward free agency. He will lose out on $855,000 in game checks each week he doesn't report. The 26-year-old would need to report by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET to avoid missing that Week 1 check.
Rapoport noted that Bell will play for the Steelers this season, it's just a question of when.
The Steelers could trade Bell, but he would still not be able to sign a long-term contract until after the season.
After Wednesday's comments from teammates, it's questionable what type of locker room Bell will be walking into when he eventually returns to Pittsburgh.