It has been a long and strange journey for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Le'Veon Bell, both figuratively and literally. What started as a joy ride with then teammate LeGarrette Blount, quickly turned into a traffic stop which resulted in both players receiving marijuana citations, and Bell receiving a DUI for operating a vehicle under the influence of the illegal substance.
As 2014 played itself out, the jury was out in regards to how the NFL would handle the situation, especially with a new substance abuse policy put in place for the 2015 season. When the ruling was announced this offseason, Le'Veon Bell was handed a three-game suspension and four games without pay. Bell immediately stated he would appeal the decision, and it was at this point everyone was put in a holding pattern wondering what would come of the NFL's decision.
When commissioner Roger Goodell was unable to answer anything regarding Bell's appeal, fans became restless wondering if arguably their best offensive player would be lost for three games, or possibly less. During this time Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley, Le'Veon Bell and many of his teammates were forced to answer question after question regarding the situation and how the offense would survive three games without Bell's services.
Bell was slated to miss the season opening game against the New England Patriots, a home game against the San Francisco 49ers and a road game against the St. Louis Rams. Needless to say, Bell will be re-joining his teammates for the Week three matchup against the Rams after the suspension was reduced to two-games.
The decision the NFL made to reduce Bell's punishment was tremendous news for the Steelers. The team has been flirting with a lack of depth at the running back position outside of recently acquired DeAngelo Williams. Nonetheless, missing Bell for only two games is a lot more friendly than the thought of him missing nearly a quarter of the 2015 season.
Matchups and depth aside, the decision ultimately gives the team clarity as they prepare for their first preseason game next weekend. No longer wondering what will happen in terms of the appeal, and the game plan if he does indeed miss three games. Rather, the team - especially the offense - can now begin to have a clear plan in place for Bell's two-week absence to start the 2015 season.
It isn't ideal, but it is finally over. The Steelers seemingly have all of their loose ends tied as they continue their march through training camp and eventually their quest for a 7th Lombardi trophy. Le'Veon Bell will be needed for such a journey, and having him for 14 games rather than 13 sure makes a world of difference when you think about it.