The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Would the Steelers’ record be much different right now if they had Le’Veon Bell through the first four weeks of the season?
According to reports, running back Le’Veon Bell now intends to only miss the first six games of the regular season for the Steelers, showing up during the Week Seven bye in order to play the following game.
Without him, the Steelers have gotten off to just a 1-2-1 start, among the worst records they’ve had through the first quarter of the season of this millennium. While it’s certainly not a hole that’s too deep to dig out of, there isn’t much time to waste getting things back on track.
Adding an All-Pro talent into the offense wouldn’t hurt. But how much of a difference would have had made in terms of wins and losses in the first four games? This is a question people have been wondering following every game the team hasn’t won anyway, so we might as well put it up for a formal discussion.
The first point that will inevitably be brought up is that James Conner fumbled in the season opener, and that fumble was recovered by the defense and returned to the one-yard line. That was a big reason the Browns were able to come back into the game, ultimately pulling out a tie. But he still scored twice in the game with nearly 200 yards.
He hasn’t had nearly the same impact the following three weeks, partially due to a decline in the number of touches, but the running game has really lacked efficiency as well outside of the closing minutes of the fourth quarter in Tampa.
Has Bell’s absence caused the offense to be more one-dimensional than it would otherwise care to be, and how much has that factored in their two losses? Bottom line: what would their record be if he played in the past four games? And what will their record be by the time he shows up?