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The Steelers are willing to trade Le’Veon Bell, but getting a deal done will be tough

Cutting ties with Le’Veon Bell makes sense, but the logistics of a trade make a deal unlikely.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers opened the 2018 season with no intention of trading Le’Veon Bell, but changed their tune just a few weeks into the year.

On the day of Pittsburgh’s Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted the Steelers had “no interest in dealing” Bell and were “not even considering that option.”

But exactly two weeks later, Schefter tweeted the opposite:

So what changed?

For one, Bell has given zero indication he’ll be showing up any time soon. At the latest, Bell can wait until Week 10 to report. If he waits any longer, the 2018 season wouldn’t count as an accrued year and the Steelers would be able to keep him at the same price in 2019.

But it also hasn’t helped that Pittsburgh is dealing with a lot of drama and issues right now. The Steelers opened the year 0-1-1 and Bell’s absence has only stoked the flames. Sending him away could help Pittsburgh turn the page and be done with a saga that’s only a distraction at this point.

Still, a trade looks like a long shot.

What is Bell worth in a trade?

Here’s the important thing to remember: If the Steelers don’t trade Bell, he’ll leave in free agency in March. And, assuming he gets a huge contract, it will almost definitely mean a third-round compensatory pick goes to Pittsburgh in the 2019 NFL Draft.

So there’s not much sense in the Steelers shipping off Bell for a late-round pick just to get rid of him.

At minimum, Pittsburgh will likely want a fourth-round pick and that’s a lot to ask from a team who is getting:

  1. A running back
  2. A player with Bell’s salary
  3. A player who might leave in free agency anyway

Any team trading for Bell will want to be 100 percent confident they aren’t giving up a high draft pick for a short-term rental. Considering how appealing the prospect of hitting the open market will be for Bell, that’s a tall ask.

How many teams can even afford Bell?

There will likely be a few teams willing to pay big for Bell in 2019, but for now, there isn’t a long list of franchises loaded with cap space to afford his 2018 salary.

You could count those teams on your hands:

One of those teams has reportedly reached out to the Steelers. According to the New York Daily News, the Jets “haven’t made a concrete offer,” but have expressed interest in Bell. New York has been interested in adding blue-chip players on defense, and reportedly made pushes for Khalil Mack and Dante Fowler Jr. in August.

There just aren’t many potential takers and the price tag will be tough to agree upon. A trade involving Bell isn’t impossible, but the likely scenario is that we see the running back in black and yellow before he heads anywhere else.