NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports that Bell is expected to miss the rest of the season with a badly torn MCL and other damage, according to a source informed of the injury. The Steelers announced Monday afternoon that Bell was placed on the injured reserved list. He was hurt during Pittsburgh's 16-10 loss to the Bengals on Sunday.
This is a brutal dose of news for the Steelers, coming on the same day that their realistic chance to win the AFC North evaporated. Now they have to worry about surviving without what we believe is the best running back in the entire league.
The Steelers are unfortunately getting used to playing big games without Bell. He missed the team's playoff loss to the Ravens in January due to a knee injury, and missed the first two games of the season due to a suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Bell finished second in the league in yards from scrimmage last season, in part because of his incredible ability as a receiver. He was the second leading receiver on a team that threw for 5,000 yards last year and was playing even better this season. He was averaging more than 100 yards rushing-per-game this season before Sunday, looking leaner than ever with his uniquely patient stop-and-start running style.
It goes without saying Bell cannot be replaced. But the Steelers do have an excellent backup in DeAngelo Williams, who combined for 194 rushing yards and three scores in his two starts in place of Bell. The succession of injuries on Pittsburgh's offense, however, are going to be difficult to overcome. They are also playing without left tackle Kelvin Beachum for the rest of the season, and center Maurkice Pouncey is on injured reserve with a designation to return.
Pittsburgh's offense looked on track to be one of the league's best this season, but injuries and suspensions have prevented them from being at full strength. Now 4-4, they know they won't be at full strength all season.