Roethlisberger told reporters Wednesday morning that he reached out to Bell ahead of the league’s Tuesday deadline for Bell to sign his franchise tag.
“I texted him yesterday before the deadline asking him — texted — saying I was hoping he was going to show up, and if he decided not to I wish him nothing but the best,” Roethlisberger said, via video posted by PennLive.com . “He was a great teammate and football player. To each their own on what they want to walk away from.”
Roethlisberger said Bell did not reply to his text message, and eventually Bell elected to not sign his $14.5 million franchise tender. By doing so, Bell will not receive the money and miss the rest of the season.
With Bell’s career in Pittsburgh almost certainly over, it appears his teammates have moved on as well.
After practice on Wednesday, multiple Steelers players raided Bell’s locker. According to multiple reports, they took his nameplate off his stall and divided up items they found in the locker. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler posted a video showing linebacker Bud Dupree thanking Bell for his Jordan Brand cleats before putting one of the shoes on.
Before practice, Roethlisberger told reporters he couldn’t imagine sitting out a entire season like Bell has in his pursuit for a long-term contract.
“It would be tough,” Roethlisberger said. “Part of the great thing about this sport is this band of brothers, this group of guys in here. Being with them is kind of what keeps me coming back here, just so many years, too. But like I said, to each their own. Each guy has their own motives and motivations and I can’t comment on him. I am glad that we won’t talk about this anymore, though.”
In the meantime, the Steelers will now rely on James Conner, who has been a capable fill during Bell’s absence with 771 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns to go along with 387 yards receiving and a touchdown.