Yes, I feel as if I must speak hypothetically about the possibility of the Steelers' high-powered offense missing both Martavis Bryant and Le'Veon Bell in 2016 due to drug-suspensions.
Obviously, Bryant's suspension is a done-deal and will wipe-out his entire 2016 season. As for Bell, he is the hypothetical part of the equation. The reason is because of those nasty little rumors local radio personality Mark Madden started on Tuesday, which had to do with a supposed skipped drug-test by Bell.
Given that a missed drug test is considered a positive and that Bell was already suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season for a drug-related incident, if the rumors are true, Bell would face an even longer suspension to start the upcoming regular season.
Bell has denied these rumors (pretty emphatically, even), so I have no reason but to believe him.
However, if Bell is like one of those 10-year old kids that lies to their parents about a failing grade when they know darn right well they will be found out sooner rather than later, and will, in-fact, have to sit out a portion of the 2016 season, how much will his absence, along with Bryant's, hinder the Steelers' offense?
If you go by the statistics of last season, when Pittsburgh's offense had to play several games without Bell or Bryant--and a few others without both (Bryant missed the first five games of last season due to a four-game suspension and an injury)--things might not be so bad.
The offense was without both Bryant and Bell in Weeks 1 and 2 of last season, as their suspensions overlapped, but the unit remained potent and productive.
In the regular season-opener at New England on September 10, the Steelers offense generated 464 total yards in a 28-21 loss to the Patriots. Veteran running back DeAngelo Williams, signed in the offseason for the specific purpose of replacing the productive Bell for the first two games, gashed New England's defense to the tune of 127 yards on 21 carries.
The following week against the 49ers at Heinz Field, the offense posted a rather robust 453 total yards in a 43-18 blow-out victory. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was insanely efficient, completing 21 of 27 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. As for Williams, while he only rushed for 77 yards, he hit pay-dirt three times--including a couple of two-yard touchdowns and a one-yard score.
So, in the first two games without a couple of important components, the offense averaged 458.5 yards per week and scored a total of 64 points.
It is true that, during those two games, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Markus Wheaton didn't necessarily make people forget about Bryant in-terms of explosiveness and creating match-up problems. But that didn't stop Antonio Brown from being Antonio Brown, as he caught a combined 20 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns.
But there's no denying Bryant's ability as a receiver, and when he made his 2015 debut in Week 6 against the Cardinals, he also made a hero out of third-string quarterback Landry Jones. Jones entered the game in the second half to replace an injured and ineffective Mike Vick, who had spent the previous two-plus games filling in for an injured Roethlisberger.
In a little under one half, Jones completed eight of 12 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. But six of those completions and 137 of those yards went to Bryant, who was the recipient of both touchdowns.
From the fourth quarter of the game against the Rams in Week 3, when Roethlisberger was injured, through the third quarter of Week 6, Pittsburgh's offense was pretty frail, but Bryant's presence suddenly made it look decent again--and with an inexperienced quarterback throwing him passes.
Bell, who made his season-debut just as Roethlisberger was about to miss a month's worth of action, was lost for the rest of 2015 after suffering a torn MCL in a 16-10 loss to the Bengals in Week 8.
However, even with the loss of perhaps the most productive running back in the NFL, the offense scored 30 points or more over the next six weeks, averaging just under 475 yards a game.
During that stretch, Bryant did have a couple of dominant performances--including 178 yards against the Browns on November 15 and 114 yards against the Colts on December 6--but he only averaged 88 receiving yards a game.
As for Williams, he averaged 84 yards a week during his last seven full games as a starter in Bell's absence, before suffering an injury in Week 17 against the Browns, and finished the year with 907 on the ground.
It goes without saying Roethlisberger is the key component to Pittsburgh's offense.
The Steelers averaged 26.4 points per game in 2015. Take away the four weeks that Roethlisberger wasn't the starter, and the average was two points higher.
With a motivated and in-shape Williams in the backfield, and with new tight end Ladarius Green picking up the slack with regards to creating match-up problems, the Steelers' offense should be just as potent in 2016, even without both Bryant and Bell (provided No. 7 stays healthy).
But, in the case of Bell, let's just hope this article is simply hypothetical because I'm sure nobody really wants to find out.