LeVeon Bell did not want to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers until he had to. The Steelers refused to give Bell a long-term contract to protect him and he knew that if he showed up and played, the Steelers would hand him the ball up to 400 times and beat him up so bad he wouldn't be able to get a good deal if he became a free agent next season. Bell had every right to remain home as well because the Steelers gave him the franchise tag to stop him from becoming a free agent and the protection for the player is that they don't have to sign it until Week 11 -- with no punishment.

This is Week 10, so Bell has to report to the Steelers by Tuesday of next week -- the Tuesday before Week 11 -- if he wants to become a free agent in 2019.

The Steelers could franchise him again at that time but it would cost them way too much so they will likely let him walk.

LeVeon Bell is back in Pittsburgh

LeBron Bell is a member of the L.A. Fitness facility in Pittsburgh and worked out there in the offseason. A video was shot at the fitness center on Tuesday night of Bell playing basketball there. While some doubted the photo, ESPN looked into it and found that it was Bell and that he is back in Pittsburgh.

Bell had spent much of his time in Miami while the Pittsburgh Steelers played the first eight games of the season without him. During that time, the Steelers held onto the top spot in the division with a 5-2-1 record. They also found Bell's replacement in James Conner.

Bell in the 2018 NFL season

When LeVeon Bell returns to the Pittsburgh Steelers next week, he will probably get his starting job back.

However, the good news for Bell is that the Steelers won't need to work him like a workhorse back. While Bell was gone, Conner stepped in and has run for 706 yards and nine touchdowns as the starting running back.

This means clearly that Conner will be the Pittsburgh Steelers starting running back in 2019 and the team will have no problem letting LeVeon Bell walk away to make millions elsewhere. Conner is averaging 88.3 yards-per-game and last season Bell averaged only 86.1 yards. It looks like Conner might be a better option at the age of 23 for the future.

The success of Conner might also hurt the value of LeVeon Bell in 2019. In his five seasons as the Steelers' starting running back, Bell ran for over 1,200 yards three times and over 1,300 yards once. He only finished two seasons without missing time with injuries and then sat out this season.

LeVeon Bell wants a giant contract and at the age of 26 has a lot left in the tank. However, with Conner playing so well for the Pittsburgh Steelers, some teams might see him as a product of the system and he will have to really perform well the final games of the season to get what he thinks he is worth.