The Pittsburgh Steelers have now won five straight games and continue to “stack wins.” After their 52-21 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, the team now has a chance to rest and relax and prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11.
Today in the black-and-gold links article, we talk about how the Pittsburgh Steelers can not just win regular season games without the help of Le’Veon Bell, but can actually go on to win a Super Bowl without the dual threat capabilities of the All-Pro running back. Need evidence? Just look at what the team has done throughout the first 10 games of the 2018 regular season, and compare Conner’s stat line to that of Bell from previous years.
Let’s get to the news:
Why the Steelers have Super Bowl shot without Le’Veon Bell
By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
All season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have answered questions about Le’Veon Bell’s absence and potential impact on the offense upon his return.
Those questions could end this week, as Bell is unlikely to report by Tuesday’s deadline to sign his $14.5 million franchise tag tender, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Forfeiting the season might just end his prolific career in Pittsburgh, and a clean break might be necessary for both sides. The team is upset that Bell teased rejoining the Steelers by coming to Pittsburgh last week, only to balk on those plans.
The Steelers are a better team with Bell, an All-Pro.
That reality hasn’t stopped the team from moving on long ago, and getting really good in the process.
”I’m not going to comment on someone who’s not in this locker room right now,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said assuredly after his brilliant 328-yard, five-touchdown performance in Thursday’s 52-21 win over Carolina.
One of the hottest teams in the league should have every reason to believe it can contend for a Super Bowl with that locker room makeup.
A surging Roethlisberger with weapons everywhere
Not just playmaking weapons, but all 11 along the formation. The offensive line has been among the league’s best. Roethlisberger hasn’t taken more than one sack in a game since Week 3. James Conner is averaging 5.33 yards per carry over the past five weeks...
The league’s best red zone offense
For years, middling red zone production kept a prolific offense from averaging 30 points per game. The Steelers are averaging 31.0 points per game through 10 weeks because of their top-ranked red zone offense, scoring more than three out of every four times inside the 20, compared to about half last season...
Defense playing to its identity
The Steelers were humbled after Patrick Mahomes came into Heinz Field and threw for six touchdowns on their defense in Week 2. Afterward, coach Mike Tomlin told his group they played the world’s best offense, so act accordingly.
The improvement was slow, but the performance at the midseason point is what the Steelers envisioned to start the year. Steelers players love to say that “rush and coverage work together,” and that plan is translating to the field...
Loaded but manageable playoff picture
The Steelers hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs thanks to the New England Patriots’ Week 10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Securing a playoff bye for the second consecutive year is very much in play despite the 1-2-1 start. Three of the Steelers’ next four opponents have losing records before a daunting three-game stretch of New England, New Orleans and Cincinnati awaits.
Tim Benz: Why I’m still hoping Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell reports
By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The latest in a never-ending stream of reports about Le’Veon Bell’s future has come from Adam Schefter at ESPN. He claims the running back is unlikely to report to the Steelers before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.
If that’s true, it’s too bad.
I’ve seen way too many high-quality Steelers teams derailed by late-season injuries to star running backs. What if something like that should happen to James Conner?
The Steelers might not have beaten the Patriots in New England even if Bell stayed in the 2016 AFC championship game beyond the first quarter. But they were not competitive without him.
When Bell got hurt at the end of the 2014 regular season, the Steelers lost their playoff game at home to the Baltimore Ravens with a motley collection of reserve running backs totaling just 41 yards on the ground.
Willie Parker went down in Game 15 of the 2007 campaign, and Najeh Davenport took over. He had 25 yards on the ground in the playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A badly injured Jerome Bettis tried to play against New England in the 2001 AFC title game. He had 8 yards on nine carries, and the Steelers lost.
Barry Foster was en route to a 1,200-yard season in 1993 until he got hurt in Week 9. Even though LeRoy Thompson proved a capable backup, the Steelers were defeated in the first round of the playoffs by the Kansas City Chiefs.
The best thing for the Steelers is to see Bell report on Tuesday. Then, they should give him exactly what he has wanted all along: zero injury risk. Don’t play him until absolutely necessary, if that eventuality ever occurs.
Skipped season would cost Le’Veon Bell additional $200,000 in benefits
By: Adam Schefter, ESPN
If Le’Veon Bell doesn’t report to the Pittsburgh Steelers by Tuesday’s deadline -- and the belief among multiple sources is that he will not -- he will forgo roughly $200,000 in additional benefits that come with a credited NFL season, sources told ESPN.
Each credited NFL season for players adds to their benefits in the form of a pension, an annuity, 401K contributions and a health reimbursement account -- which one official estimated to be roughly $200,000 per year, plus however that money would compound over time.
In 2018, if an NFL player earns a credited season, he will receive $760 per month -- or $9,120 per year -- in pension beginning at age 55. The league contributes a maximum of $26,000 into each player’s 401K plans, assuming the player contributes to the max. There is also severance and a health reimbursement fund.
While there’s no exact figure, estimates for a loss of a player sitting out a full season, as Bell is considering, escalate to close to or at $200,000 per year.
”I don’t think it even enters his mind,” one source familiar with the NFL’s benefits package told ESPN. “When you lose a credited [season] and retire, you wish you had it then. But you’re not thinking about that now.”
What Bell is thinking about now is getting to this winter and to free agency as healthy as possible, which means skipping this season to date. He must report by Tuesday’s deadline, or he will be ineligible to play this season. Each week that Bell misses costs him $855,000 in base salary.
Bell’s camp continues to maintain its cone of silence and repeatedly has declined to address with reporters the star running back’s plans for the coming week.
Ten months ago, Bell said he “definitely would consider” sitting out the 2018 season or retiring if the Steelers used the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive season. The Steelers did use the $14.1 million tag, and there are no indications that Bell will report by the deadline.