In about two months, I suspect we'll be reflecting upon a season of what could have been for the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers.
The double-whammy suffered in Sunday's 16-10 home loss to Cincinnati looks like too much for the Steelers to overcome.
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Barring a Bengals collapse, Pittsburgh (4-4) has little chance of winning the AFC North. Cincinnati (7-0) holds a 3Â½-game lead and gets to host the divisional rematch in Week 13.
The Steelers, though, now have bigger worries than catching the Bengals. A wild-card spot may not be in the offing either now that running back Le'Veon Bell looks to have suffered a major knee injury.
For the first time this season, Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley finally had all of his skill-position players at his disposal with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returning to the starting lineup following a knee injury. That luxury lasted all of 21 plays.
Six minutes into the second quarter, Bell caught a Roethlisberger pass and turned up-field. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict wrapped himself around Bell with a tackle and landed on his legs while dragging him down. Bell immediately grabbed his right knee -- the one he injured in last year's Week 17 matchup against Cincinnati -- and needed help leaving the field.
Bell didn't get to see the end of Sunday's game, when the Steelers squandered a 10-6 lead after back-to-back Roethlisberger interceptions in the fourth quarter. Bell left at halftime for a local hospital to receive an MRI exam that would determine just how much damage he had sustained.
Results weren't immediately known following the game. Ideally, Bell will be able to return at some point this season but it's not a stretch to think he will be gone for at least a few weeks.
Thanks to the offseason addition of DeAngelo Williams, the Steelers are much better heeled to handle Bell's absence than when he was hurt last season. However, Bell is a far more dynamic rushing/receiving threat with the game-breaking speed that the 32-year-old Williams lacks at this point of his 10-year NFL career.
The Steelers can take some positives out of Sunday's game. The defense gave Cincinnati's offense fits for most of the game, especially in the trenches. The front four will get even stronger when Stephon Tuitt returns from a knee injury that has sidelined him the past two weeks.
It's also obvious that no other AFC team is running away with a wild-card berth at the midway point of the season.
That's what would make falling short of the postseason hurt just as much as the injuries for a club that was a legitimate Super Bowl contender entering the season.