Photo: Kevin C. Cox (Getty)

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has been staying away from the team all season as he tries to preserve his body for as long as he can before hitting free agency in 2019. But according to a report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Bell plans to return to the Steelers for their Week 8 game against the Browns.

Fowler talked to Bell on the phone on Monday, but the running back didn’t make his plans clear. The report instead cited “a source” who said Bell is expecting to report around Week 7 or 8. (The Steelers have a bye in Week 7.) Bell did say he never planned on sitting out the entire season—which makes sense, because he would risk the ability to become a free agent if he didn’t report by Week 10:

“It sucks having to sit out football,” Bell said by telephone from South Florida on Monday. “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.”

Bell said that despite the acrimonious standoff with the team, he would like to continue his career in Pittsburgh, if possible. In the Steelers’ first game without Bell, James Conner had 31 carries for 135 yards and five catches for 57 yards as the team tied the Browns, 21-21. Although it’s not totally his fault, since the Steelers have found themselves throwing plenty of passes in defense-free shootouts, Conner hasn’t reached that level of production since. Pittsburgh, now 1-2-1, only had 19 yards on the ground in Sunday’s 26-14 loss to the Ravens.

[ESPN]