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Injuries and suspensions have derailed Steelers offense in 2015

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2015 was supposed to be the year the Steelers' offense would carry the load. Unfortunately, thanks to multiple suspensions and a rash of injuries to key personnel, the unit has been only a shell of what it probably should be, and Pittsburgh (4-4) has suffered tremendously because of it.

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If you're a Steelers fan and you actually have experience with the relief that comes with initial, post-game rumors that a star offensive player may have suffered only an MCL injury, thus sparing the ACL, then you know it's been quite the trying first eight weeks to the 2015 season.

The latest star offensive player about whom fans currently are holding  their collective breath is running back Le'Veon Bell, who had to be carted to the locker room with a right-knee injury on Sunday. Bell's knee bent underneath him awkwardly while being tackled out of bounds by two Bengals defenders early in the second quarter of what ultimately became a heartbreaking 16-10 loss to the AFC-North rivals at Heinz Field.

The best-case scenario according to Pro Football Talk (at least as of this writing) is an MCL injury, which may mean Bell comes back before the end of the season. If that "good news" sounds familiar to you, it's because you were similarly relieved about four weeks ago when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to be carted to the locker room during the Week-3 victory over the Rams, and the post-game speculation was basically the same and trending in a somewhat positive direction.

But is it really positive to lose a star player for multiple weeks? If you say yes to that, then I want some of that optimism infused into my bloodstream.

I don't know about you, but I wanted to use the Internet to keep track of the Steelers' potent and highly-explosive offense this year. I didn't want to use it to find out if a broken fibula was something a Pro Bowl center could bounce back from in two months when he was placed on the short-term IR.

I wanted to go online to find out if Roethlisberger could eclipse 5,000 yards passing in 2015. I didn't want to go online to read progress updates regarding his mending MCL sprain which, as I now know all too well, is so much better than an ACL tear.

Too bad it doesn't feel better from where I'm standing.

You combine the broken fibula suffered by Maurkice Pouncey in the preseason, the knee injuries to Roethlisberger and now Bell, Kelvin Beachum's season-ending knee injury and the multiple-game suspensions of both Martavis Bryant and Bell to start 2015, and it feels like the offense has suffered one giant ACL tear.

The 2015 season was supposed to be the year when the Steelers' offense would come of age and carry the team to playoff glory. Yet, starting with the Week-3 game against the Rams, Pittsburgh has produced scores of 12, 20, 24, 25, 13 and 10 points, respectively. Instead of the 30 points per week Roethlisberger desired in the preseason, the offense is averaging 21, and just 17.3 since the third week.

While it's normal and familiar to blame preparation and play-calling, the fact is, much like an athlete with a torn ACL, there isn't a whole lot a coach can do when so many integral parts of the offense keep missing games. (I'm pretty sure a good bit of Todd Haley's game plan went out the window when Bell was carted into the locker room.)

Yeah, sure, DeAngelo Williams is a nice veteran running back, but he's obviously no Bell in-terms of being a dual-threat. Also, no disrespect to Darrius Heyward-Bey, but he's no Martavis Bryant. And Alejandro Villanueva is a nice story, but Beachum he isn't--at least not yet.

And while you may have disapproved of Antonio Brown for his perceived selfishness during Roethlisberger's absence,  you were probably feeling as uncomfortable as he was while watching him try to catch passes from Mike Vick and then Landry Jones.

The mantra this week was that, yeah, sure, Beachum and Pouncey would be missing along the line, but at least the offense would have its full complement of skill-position players available for the first time this year and just in time  for a very important game against an unbeaten Bengals team. How long did that last? A little over a quarter, and then it was back to holding your breath, speculating and praying for just a sprained MCL.

And in case you didn't know, MCL injuries are so much better than ACL injuries.

My cup runneth over.

Editor's Note: Reports are now showing Bell to have torn his MCL and could be placed on season-ending IR as early as Monday.