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NFL: Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell refuses to sign tag, out for 2018

Le'Veon Bell won't play in 2018.

The star running back declined to sign his one-year $14.4 million franchise tender with the Pittsburgh Steelers by Tuesday's deadline, making him ineligible to suit up for the AFC North-leading Steelers or anyone else this season.

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The unusual decision to sit out won't prevent Bell from becoming a free agent next spring, when the three-time Pro Bowler hopes to cash in with a contract that would make him the highest-paid back in the NFL.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin seemed resigned to Bell's decision shortly before the 4 p.m. deadline, saying simply “so be it” when asked about the possibility of Bell never returning to the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2013 draft and helped mold him into one of the league's top players.

Bengals hire former Browns coach Hue Jackson to help run defense

Hue Jackson needed only a few weeks to land another job in the place where he's always welcomed.

The Bengals hired Jackson on Tuesday as a special assistant to head coach Marvin Lewis as he tries to resurrect Cincinnati's historically bad defense. Jackson was fired by the Cleveland Browns last month after he won only three games in three seasons as head coach.

As soon as Cleveland let him go, the Bengals showed an interest in Jackson, who begins his third stint with them.

In his latest role, he'll help Lewis — a close friend — try to fix the defense and save the season. Cincinnati (5-4) has lost three of its last four games and is on pace to give up the most yards in a season of any team in NFL history. The Bengals have allowed more than 500 yards in three straight games, a first for any team in the Super Bowl era.

They fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday, with Lewis taking over as defensive coordinator in addition to his head coaching duties. Lewis said on Monday that there was a plan to help him do both jobs, but didn't get specific.

The Bengals talked to Jackson about becoming Lewis' special assistant, and he readily accepted the position.

“I have a great comfort level with Hue and his ability to assist me with the day-to-day responsibilities on defense, including analyzing our opponents and helping me on game days with the players and defensive coaches,” Lewis said.

Lewis hired Jackson in 2004 — his second season in Cincinnati — as receivers coach. He spent three years in the job before moving to the Falcons as offensive coordinator, developing a reputation for creativity. He was the Raiders' offensive coordinator before moving up to head coach in 2011.

After his firing in Oakland, he returned to the Bengals in 2012 as a special assistant working with the defensive backs in 2012. He worked with the running backs in 2013 and was promoted to offensive coordinator a year later when Jay Gruden went to Washington.

The Bengals had one of their best years on offense in 2015, with Andy Dalton leading the AFC in passer rating. Jackson was hired by the Browns after the season

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam fired Jackson after a 33-18 loss in Pittsburgh, Cleveland's 25th consecutive road defeat. Jackson wasn't getting along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who also was fired.

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