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Steelers

Le'Veon Bell says he hopes to return to Steelers in 2018

Joe Rutter
| Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, 7:57 p.m.

Le'Veon Bell's preference is to play for the Steelers in 2018.

“Of course,” Bell said after the Steelers' season ended with a 45-42 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC divisional playoff game Sunday at Heinz Field. “I never want to leave this city. There are circumstances, things like that, but I definitely don't (want to leave).”

The All-Pro running back created national headlines earlier in the week when he told ESPN he would consider retirement or sitting out next season if the Steelers use the franchise tag on him again. When Bell became a free agent last winter, the Steelers franchised him and, after sitting out training camp, he eventually signed a $12.12 million tender.

Bell finished third in the NFL in rushing and second in scrimmage yards this season. Against the Jaguars on Sunday, he had two touchdowns (one receiving, one on a lateral) and 155 scrimmage yards. He rushed for 67 yards on 16 attempts and had nine catches for 88 yards.

Bell will become a free agent again in March unless the Steelers use the franchise tag again or sign him to a long-term contract.

Bell said it was too early to think about whether the loss to the Jaguars was his final game with the Steelers.

“I haven't thought about it like that,” he said. “The fact we lost the game, I felt the same way after all four games we lost this year. I'll go back tomorrow when I wake up and it may cross my mind, but I haven't thought about it at all.”

Bell is the only high-profile player on the Steelers not signed for next season. But with the Steelers losing in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, changes could be coming in the offseason.

“That's for the guys upstairs to hand all that,” Bell said. “I'm just a player. Hopefully, we'll get a lot of people back and make a run next year. We have a lot of talent and great players in this locker room.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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