The Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping that 2015 would be the year that they finally got over the hump on offense. This was meant to be the season where they finally put together an offensive unit that could not only put up yards, and put up points, but could also win in the postseason, and win a championship.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Super Bowl. Or, rather, several not so funny things. Because this Steelers lineup is missing many key pieces that were in the plans to be there, but are now standing on the sideline in street clothes cheering their brothers on.
And in that sense it’s somewhat remarkable for them to have even made it this far, to be truthful. The Steelers have had their peaks and valleys, but overall, the offense has gotten them pretty far, largely, including a 10-win season and already one playoff victory.
There are many faces watching from afar, however, that should be in the huddle, but are not, whether for the short-term, a couple of games or two, or for even longer, most of the season, or even the entire season.
At the moment, the list of absentees is headed by Antonio Brown, the Steelers’ most decorated and accomplished player currently on the roster, who set all sorts of different records during the course of the 2015 season. He struggled to find success without Ben Roethlisberger, and now Roethlisberger will experience the same without Brown.
Brown is missing his first game since 2012, this because of a concussion that he suffered on the Steelers’ last offensive play of their Wildcard victory, the background of which has been dissected in minute detail. But DeAngelo Williams is another name on the temporarily missing list playing a key role in this season’s narrative.
Williams was not even meant to be the starting running back, of course, but he started 10 games and rushed for over 900 yards and 11 touchdowns until he suffered a foot injury and has so far been ruled out for the first two weeks of the postseason.
That was already for a team absent Le’Veon Bell, who played in just six games before he tore his MCL. He set a Steelers record for yards from scrimmage last year and was an All-Pro, along with Brown. To think that they have had the success that they have without him alone is remarkable.
And that is not even to mention the fact that Maurkice Pouncey, a four-time Pro Bowl center, has not played a down this year, or that Kelvin Beachum tore his ACL six games into the year, each replaced, respectively, by journeymen with marginal to practically no prior experience.
Even the loss of fullback Roosevelt Nix has been felt, with the Steelers abandoning the use of multiple-back sets and relying more on multiple-tight end looks. This Pittsburgh team, especially on the offensive side of the ball, has waded through a lot of adversity, but one can’t help but wonder how much further they can go before the tank runs dry.