Photo: John Grieshop (Getty)

Star running back Le’Veon Bell’s years-long fight to extract a long-term deal from the Pittsburgh Steelers seems to have finally come to an end. Today was the deadline for the two sides to work something out, but no deal was reached and now Bell will play out a second year on the franchise tag, with an eye towards free agency.

More than anything, this is proof that no running back is immune to the various factors that have conspired to dramatically drive down the market value of running backs in the NFL. Teams have simply decided that running backs are easily replaceable and not worth spending a lot of money on, and nowhere is the strength of that belief made more explicit than in the Steelers’ steadfast refusal to give the best and most versatile running back in the league a long-term contract.

It’s hard to even argue that the Steelers are being unwise here. Bell is still just 26 years old, but he carried the ball 321 times last season, and if the Steelers are projecting him to be broken down before he even turns 30, they probably aren’t wrong. Anyone know what DeMarco Murray is up to right now?

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Still, there’s something really depressing about a player as talented and thrilling as Bell being unable to find long-term security in the NFL. This is just the reality all running backs have to deal with now. If there’s no hope for someone as good as Bell, what’s going to happen to the rest of them?