Once viewed as one of the more impactful non-quarterbacks against the spread, Bell's holdout and James Conner's rise have diminished Bell's standing.
"At this point, it wouldn't mean a thing to me," one longtime oddsmaker told ESPN regarding Bell's ATS value if he returned.
Here is why Bell is no longer worth much in Vegas' eyes.
There is no doubt that the Steelers have historically been a better overall team with Bell on the field.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, since 2013 (including the playoffs), Pittsburgh is 44-22 straight up with Bell and only 17-11-1 without him. Against the spread, the difference is even more pronounced: The Steelers are 37-29 ATS with Bell and 12-14-3 without him.
But what's important to remember about players' value to the spread is that it's the marginal value that's significant. As Doug Kezirian broke down in his piece on every NFL QB's value against the spread, Tom Brady is worth roughly eight more points than Brian Hoyer. Andrew Luck is worth only four points, but that's because Jacoby Brissett is a much more valuable backup quarterback. Thus the difference between the two players is less.
The same logic explains why Bell's return isn't moving the needle for Vegas bookmakers. Conner has been more than an adequate fill-in, compiling 771 rushing yards (second in NFL) and becoming more of a receiving threat.
"[Last year] I would've said Bell's worth 3.5-4 points," DraftKings director of sportsbook operations Johnny Avello told ESPN in a text message. "Not only for his rushing, but also because of his receptions. This year, he could be worth anything from +1 to -1. The reason I say -1 is Conner is playing so well that it could have a negative effect."
Several oddsmakers we spoke with put Bell's value closer to 1 to 1.5 points last season, but they agreed that Bell's value to the spread was negligible this season.
"I think the perception would be that Bell's worth something and I do think the market would change with his return -- maybe at the most half a point," John Murray, director of the SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN. "He's a great player, but the running back position isn't that important to the spread and Conner has been very productive. It's all about the quality of the next guy up."
"Bell is worth less than half a point to a line this year because of Conner," a FanDuel sportsbook rep told ESPN. "Last season, he was worth nearly a full point to the Steelers line."
One sportsbook director saw Bell's value a little higher, but he didn't believe that Pittsburgh's Super Bowl odds would've changed much with his return.
"Bell is worth 1.5 to 2 points, based on which team the Steelers are facing," Nick Bogdanovich, head of trading at William Hill, told ESPN in an email. "The Steelers are currently 8-1 to win the Super Bowl. If Bell was playing, I'd leave them at 8-1 or maybe go to 7-1."
Pittsburgh opened as a 3.5-point favorite in Jacksonville in Week 11, and the line quickly has been bet up to 5.5. The Steelers are 6-1 to win the Super Bowl at Westgate.