The Pittsburgh Steelers offense and offensive coordinator Todd Haley have been spending the majority of the offseason and training camp preparing the team for life without Le'Veon Bell to start the 2015 NFL season.
Going into Foxborough to play the New England Patriots on September 10th, with or without Tom Brady, is going to be difficult enough, but without Bell in the backfield it will be an even bigger challenge. Now factor in the absence of Pro Bowl, All Pro center Maurkice Pouncey and the Steelers will have a 'double-whammy' on their hands for the Week 1 game against the Patriots and the Week 2 game at home against San Francisco 49ers.
The news of Maurkice Pouncey undergoing surgery Monday and likely being placed on the short-term Injured Reserve list compounds the loss of Bell in many ways. The Steelers addition of DeAngelo Williams this offseason seems to be an extremely wise decision as Williams has shown tremendous vision and burst throughout the preseason and looks to be able to carry the load while Bell has to watch his teammates in the first two weeks. However, one of the biggest factors of Williams' looming success was based around the stellar offensive line who would be paving the way.
With Pouncey now out of the lineup for half of the regular season, the team's offensive line takes a huge hit as their captain is simply irreplaceable. Cody Wallace, the man in charge of replacing Pouncey until he returns, is a quality player and extremely capable, but don't fool yourself in regards to Haley and the offense being able to do what Pouncey does, which makes him the very best at his position.
Look no further than the play where Pouncey was injured Sunday vs. the Green Bay Packers as a perfect example. The Steelers ran a stretch run play, and you can watch Pouncey pull from the center position and provide a lead block for the ball carrier, Le'Veon Bell. It was Pouncey getting in front of the play and peeling back to block Julius Peppers when Ha Ha Clinton Dix came in low to cut Bell down at the knees, when he inadvertently cut down Pouncey for the long-term.
This isn't to suggest the Steelers can't win without Pouncey. If Pouncey's past injuries have proven anything it is the Steelers are capable of winning without Pouncey in the lineup, but it doesn't mean it will be easy. Pouncey isn't just good in run blocking, but is the player who is responsible for making calls along the offensive line in pass protection and keeping Ben Roethlisberger clean and upright with regularity.
On September 10th when the Steelers travel to Foxborough they will be without Pouncey and Bell in the lineup. Two huge blows to a dynamic and stellar offensive unit looking to make their mark on the NFL in 2015. At this point in time, fans everywhere have to hope there aren't any other major names added to this equation to make the challenge of winning the first two games even more difficult until Bell can return to the lineup and help right the ship.