They're against the clock, but the Pittsburgh Steelers and star running back Le'Veon Bell are making progress in contract extension talks, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Both parties have until Monday afternoon, which is the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign new contracts - to come to terms on a long-term pact. If they can't strike a deal, Bell's only option will be to play the 2018-19 season under the tag for a second consecutive season, which will pay him $14.5 million.
Bell waited until the beginning of September to sign the tag and report to the Steelers last season, which caused all kinds of drama through training camp and the preseason.
During contract negotiations last offseason, Bell rejected an offer worth $42 million over the first three years of a long-term pact.
"Obviously we want to get the deal done," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told WAVY TV 10's Bruce Rader on Friday. "He wants to get the deal done. Everybody has said that. Now it's just about the negotiators getting in the room, and doing what it is they need to do. I'm excited and hopeful. Hopefully we'll have some exciting news Monday."
The three-time Pro Bowler rushed for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He's ranked among the top five in NFL rushing yards in three of the past four campaigns.
"I don't want to have the replications of what happened last year," Bell said in late June. "But if that came down to that, obviously I got to do what I got to do. Take my stand and protect myself. I don't want to have to do that. I want to go to camp and play for the Steelers long term."
The 26-year-old is reportedly seeking an annual salary of around $17 million per season, which could be a problem for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh is only roughly $5 million under the salary cap, and would need to get creative, or make some tough roster decisions, in order to accommodate such a salary.
Bell was selected 48th overall by the Steelers in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft and has played his entire five-year career in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers captured their second consecutive division title with a 13-3 campaign last year, but bowed out in the divisional round of the playoofs with a tough 45-42 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.