Steelers Lose RB Le’Veon Bell For Season
Sunday was a dark day for pro football, as star players appeared to be dropping left and right. Some only suffered minor ailments and dodged bullets in regards to serious season-ending injuries. Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (torn Achilles) wasn’t one of the lucky ones, and neither was Pittsburgh Steelers star rusher, Le’Veon Bell.
Down Goes Bell
Bell went down awkwardly during a tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals in week eight, as his knee was rolled up on as he went out of bounds. Bell went down in pain and immediately clutched his knee.
Bell reportedly suffered a torn MCL when he was rolled up on, but the team believes his ACL is fully intact. There’s a minor silver lining there, as even though Bell is done for 2015, he should have no trouble returning to full strength for 2016.
Still, this is a big blow. Just five weeks after getting one of the game’s best running backs back from a two-game suspension, Pittsburgh has to figure out how to win without him again.
The injury also comes the same week the team finally got quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back and only a few weeks after finally getting suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant back on the active roster.
Needless to say, the Steelers don’t appreciate the irony.
To add insult to injury, the Steelers gave up a late lead to the rival Bengals and fell to 4-4 on the year. In addition, the Bengals moved to a perfect 7-0 and stand firmly atop the division. With Pittsburgh being the only other team even at .500 in the AFC North, the division is as good as gone.
This is a mammoth-sized loss for the Steelers offense, as Bell was the AFC’s leading rusher even with missing the first two games of the year due to suspension. He was looking rather dominant in his five appearances this year, and was enjoying another solid outing before exiting for good on Sunday.
Only two good things came out of Sunday: the Steelers did get their quarterback back and DeAngelo Williams is a competent replacement. He’s more than that, really, and the off-season signing now looks absolutely genius. Williams was thought to be relatively washed up at 32 years old, but he was outstanding in the first two weeks when Bell sat out with a suspension and he ran well again on Sunday in lieu of Bell’s injury.
Pittsburgh would be wise to sign or trade for some extra help at the position, but Williams showed earlier this year he can carry a full load and be quite effective. Anything compared to Bell is a steep drop-off, but having Williams may not have this injury crippling Pittsburgh’s offense.
The reality is the Steelers may have been a sinking ship if Ben Roethlisberger didn’t return eventually. Losing Bell certainly hurts, but their offense is rather versatile and has plenty of weapons. With D-Will ready to take over, this is still an offense to be feared moving forward.
Being a dangerous offense and actually threatening for the playoffs are two different things, however. The Steelers were undoubtedly post-season favorites going into the year, but with the Bengals owning the division, it looks like their only realistic path to a playoff spot will be to win one of the two wild card spots.
That means the Steelers will have to edge out the Bills, Dolphins, Texans, Raiders and Chiefs. With the Ravens winning in week eight, they could even potentially be in their way. The good news is after the four division leaders (who automatically get into the playoffs), zero teams have better than a 4-3 record in the AFC.
As bleak as Bell’s injury news is, the Steelers are still in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. With Big Ben back and DeAngelo Williams in the backfield, the Steelers remain very much a threat for a deep playoff run if all goes well.
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