Le'Veon Bell Future: Steelers RB Could Return to Action between Week 7-8

Le'Veon Bell has revealed he expects to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers halfway through the season and is still hopeful of resolving the impasse surrounding his contract.

The standoff between the running back and the Steelers has been one of the themes of the offseason and has rumbled on into the first four weeks of the campaign, with Bell missing Pittsburgh's opening four games after failing to report for training.

Speaking on NFL Live earlier this month, Bell's agent Adisa Bakari made clear his client was willing to sit out a chunk of the season to prevent being overused and maximize his chances of being fully healthy in free agency.

However, according to ESPN, Bell will interrupt his self-imposed exile at some point between Week 7 and Week 8. The Steelers have a bye in Week 7 and face the Cleveland Browns at home the following week on October 28, although it remains to be seen whether Bell would be fit enough to play.

Bell told the broadcaster he is disappointed to have missed out the first quarter of the season and that he never considered sitting out the whole campaign but remains adamant he has made the right decision.

"It sucks having to sit out football," he was quoted as saying. "I want to play. I want to win games and the playoffs. But I've gotta take this stand. Knowing my worth and knowing I can tear a ligament or get surgery at any time, I knew I couldn't play 16 games with 400 or more touches."

The Steelers and Bell failed to agree a long-term deal ahead of the July 16 deadline for franchise-tagged players and he has repeatedly indicated he wants to secure a lucrative long-term deal, particularly after Todd Gurley agreed a four-year extension worth $57 million with the Los Angeles Rams in July.

The highest per-year average for a running back, Gurley's deal also includes a $20 million signing bonus and $45 million guaranteed. A week before Gurley signed his extension, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport suggested the Steelers' offer to Bell was in the region of $70 million over five years, with over $30 million over a two-year deal. Crucially, only his signing bonus of over $10 million was guaranteed.

Despite the standoff, Bell insisted he had not given up hopes of signing a new deal with the franchise that drafted him as second-round pick from Michigan State in 2013.

"I could be naïve or hopeful, but at the end of the day I feel like that's what's going to happen," the running back, who is forfeiting $852,941 per each week he fails to show up, explained. "I don't think they really want me gone. That could be me being prideful. But I'm still holding out hope."

Up until last week, Pittsburgh had remained adamant it would not trade the 26-year-old nor rescind his $14.5 million franchise tag before different networks including ESPN reported the mood had changed and the Steelers were open to offers for the three-time Pro-Bowler.

At the same time, it would be difficult for Pittsburgh not to welcome Bell back into the fold, given their current offensive problems. The Steelers rushed for just 19 yards as a team in their 24-16 at home against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, their fewest in a game since 1970.

After rushing for 159 yards in Week 1, the Steelers have averaged just 43.3 yards over the next three games, while the number of rushing attempts fell from 35 in the opening game to an average 15.3 between Week 2 and 4.