Bell and the Steelers are in a protracted contract dispute and Bell did not report in time to catch a ride on the team bus, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
The 4 p.m. deadline today will come and go without Steelers' RB Le'Veon Bell reporting, per sources. Steelers are on their way to Cleveland and Bell is not with them. He will miss Sunday's game against Cleveland, along with the opportunity to earn $853,000. James Conner time.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 8, 2018
A similar situation almost played out last season, but Bell reported in time to play in the Week 1 game. The Browns shut him down, however, holding Bell to just 32 yards on 10 carries.
That hasn’t always been the case as in five previous games against the Browns, Bell averaged 4.6 yards per carry while rushing for 507 yards and three touchdowns.
In Bell’s place, the Browns will face second-year running back James Conner, who ran four times for 11 yards in the last year’s Week 1 matchup.
Even though Bell will not be on the field, Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is not taking anything for granted, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
“I think Connor has really done well in the preseason, having taken a look at that and you take a look at the other times that they had their other backs coming in there. It may be a two-headed or three-headed monster where whoever the backs dress instead of Le’Veon just taking all of them. We are used to doing that. We are used to seeing that so just got to adapt to wherever they play.”
With Sunday’s weather forecast calling for rain and high winds, which should lend itself to a run-dominated game plan, not having to face Bell certainly works in the Browns favor.