Steelers: Could suspensions be downfall for Pittsburgh?

Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant (10) (10) against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant (10) (10) against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers have already seen a couple of suspensions come their way, and might be in for another. Could this spell doom for a team with high aspirations?

The two most detrimental things that can happen to a football team are injuries and suspensions. Any moment where a player’s time on the field in impacted can instantly ruin a season for any team, from the best to the worst.

The Steelers have seen injuries drive down their seasons in recent years, very notably last season when star after star went down (coincidentally all against the Bengals, but we won’t get into that).

This year, a lot of the talk this offseason circulated around the idea of staying healthy. Can Le’Veon Bell avoid another knee injury? Can Ben Roethlisberger stay upright? How about Pouncey? In football, injuries are unpredictable and can happen at any moment, so all that one can do is hope.

So far, while still very very early in the season, injuries haven’t been an issue (minus a potentially serious injury to new acquisition Ladarius Green). Unfortunately, suspensions have been an issue.

People have been able to somewhat get over the year-long suspension of Martavis Bryant because of the depth the Steelers have at the receiver position. Markus Wheaton has been a great player at times, and Sammie Coates has flashed a lot of potential in his limited play time.

The Steelers also have speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey, and some other young guys hoping to make an impact such as Eli Rogers, and DeMarcus Ayers. Still, the absence of Bryant will be felt.

Bryant is a rare talent at the position. He has the speed to burn any cornerback in the league, and the size to make any catch. He’s made big play after big play, and has been one of the most exciting players to watch. Additionally, with him on the field, defenses have to give him more focus than they would a Markus Wheaton allowing Brown to dominate.

While no other suspension is set in stone, the potential ones are sure to hurt the team if they do occur. Le’Veon Bell is facing a potential 4-game suspension. The Steelers are somewhat used to playing without Bell, due to his knack for injuries recently, but when he’s on the field, he is simply unstoppable.

Bell is the best all-around running back in the league. No one comes close to the way he dominates both the run game and the pass game. He is a two dimensional back with a combination of speed and power that makes him lethal on any down.

While DeAngelo Williams is easily one of the best back ups in the league, people have to realize the man is 33 years old. It’s hard to think of a running back who has succeeded in the league in recent years at 33 years old, and while he might just do it, there’s the potential reality that he won’t be the same amazing back up we had last year.

Don’t sleep on Fitzgerald Toussiant either. Toussiant might be remembered for an unfortunate fumble against the Broncos in the Divisional Round last playoffs, but he filled in admirably, and helped keep the Steelers offense afloat with a sufficient run game.

Finally, we get to James Harrison. Just recently, the news broke that Commissioner Roger Goodell plans to suspend all the players listed in the Al-Jazeera report in regards to Performance Enhancing Drugs if they refuse to do an interview. Apparently, all the players will be suspended until they wish to cooperate, and anyone who knows James Harrison knows that he’s not really one to bend.

While I think most of Steeler Nation would stand behind him if he did choose to sit out instead of comply, it’s definitely going to hurt the team (especially after seeing how Harrison played against the Lions). Luckily, the Steelers have plenty of players to try out at the linebacker position, but someone’s got to step up.

Look for Jarvis Jones, entering potentially his last season as a Steeler, to work hard to prove himself. Whether he goes to free agency next year, or wants to remain a Steeler, he’s got to earn it, and this would provide him quite the opportunity to do so.

Next: James Harrison in danger of suspension

Veteran Arthur Moats and second year man Bud Dupree will also be expected to really fill the roles of Harrison, and create havoc. Dupree hit the dreaded “rookie wall” last season after starting off strong, but he’s committed himself to better preparation for the long NFL season he was not accustomed to as a rookie.

Also keep an eye on a few other young players throughout the preseason including Tyler Matakevich, Anthony Chickello, and Jordan Zumwalt who will surely hope to see the field this year.

The hope is that Le’Veon Bell and James Harrison will both get to play 16 regular season games this year, but the unfortunate reality is that they might not. If they cannot, it’s up to the backups to fill in, and make an impact. As Mike Tomlin has said time and time again, Next Man Up.