Steelers' Le'Veon Bell confident a long-term deal will get done

PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell remains optimistic about landing a long-term contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Appearing on the NFL Network's Top 100 broadcast, Bell maintained that he's closer to an extension than last offseason as he enters another summer under the franchise tag.

The network deemed Bell its No. 5 player in the NFL based on a voting system composed of current players.

"Obviously, the people in the organization try to do what's best for them, and I'm trying to do what's best for me," Bell said. "We're working on it. We're a lot closer than we were last year at this time. That's what I'm happy about. None of that matters if we don't get it done. Hopefully we'll try to get something done. That's what I'm looking forward to. I got confidence we'll get it done. I want to do it."

Bell expressed similar optimism in January from the Pro Bowl, but both sides couldn't reach an agreement before the March 6 deadline for teams to designate the tag, which will pay Bell $14.5 million this year. The Steelers now have until July 16 at 4 p.m. ET to extend Bell, who has not signed the tag.

The franchise tag allows NFL teams to keep star players on a one-year contract commensurate with the top-five-salaried players at the position. It's considered a placeholder for negotiations on a long-term deal in earnest.

Bell earned $12.12 million on last year's tag, and the percentage increases 120 percent on a second tag, 144 percent on a third.

He has been clear that he doesn't want the tag and would prefer a lengthier deal with Pittsburgh or, if it doesn't want to sign him, another team.

Bell skipped last year's training camp as a sign of protest, and he's hinted at a similar plan in 2018 if he's bound to the tag. Asked what he'd do differently this offseason in the absence of a new deal, Bell said, "It's just getting back in the groove with the offense."

Bell, 26, has nearly 8,000 total offensive yards in five seasons despite missing 18 regular-season games.

"When you're not in there in camp, minicamp, OTAs and things like that, they find different rhythms with different backs in there -- whatever player they put in that spot that I would be in," Bell said. "I've got to find a way to get back quicker."

Bell hopes that means he's in camp with a future secured in Pittsburgh.

"I don't want to have ... what happened last year," Bell said. "If it came down to it, then I've got to do what I've gotta do, take my stand and protect myself. But I don't want to have to do that. I want to go to camp and play for the Steelers long-term."