Bell, who didn’t show up for team meetings on Wednesday, was not on the team’s buses on Saturday afternoon when they took off to Cleveland for their season opener against the Browns on Sunday, according to the NFL’s Ian Rapoport.
The #Steelers buses are on the road to Cleveland and RB Le’Veon Bell is not on them, I’m told. Bell will leave a $855K game check on the table and the wait is on. James Conner is their starter until Bell is back.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 8, 2018
Without Bell, who will lose more than $850,000 by sitting out Sunday’s game, the Steelers will move forward with James Conner as their starting running back.
The 26-year-old has made it clear that he doesn’t want to play under the franchise tag for a second straight year, and wants a long-term deal from the Steelers — which they aren’t willing to give him. His teammates, though, aren’t happy about the move, and called him out last week.
While it’s unknown how long his holdout will last, Saturday’s move makes it clear that Bell is willing to wait for as long as it takes.
Who is James Conner?
Conner, who was selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft, is entering his second season with the Steelers. He picked up 144 yards on 32 attempts in his rookie season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
The former Pittsburgh running back ran for 1,092 yards and caught 21 passes for 302 yards and 20 touchdowns in his senior season with the Panthers, earning first-team All-ACC honors.
He was also diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015 while rehabbing from a torn MCL and missed most of his junior season.
And while many would likely feel the pressure having to step in for Bell, Conner said he’s feeling calm ahead of Sunday’s season opener.
“[People] are not in my shoes,” Conner said this week. “They might think it’s pressure, but to me it’s just football and doing my job. We’ve been here 8-to-5. It’s just my job. The outside world thinks it’s pressure, but it’s just football. It’s always been that way.”
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Report: Alabama’s Jalen Hurts to redshirt 2018 season
• Ray Allen praises Celtics teammates during Hall of Fame ceremony
• Pete Carroll unconcerned about reports that he coddles Russell Wilson
• Lee Corso gets emotional on ‘Gameday’ while talking about Burt Reynolds