Martavis Bryant was cleared to practice and participate in pre-season games yesterday. That got me to thinking, how many games has the Steelers "big 4" offensive weapons of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le'veon Bell, and Martavis Bryant actually played together. The number may surprise you. Bryant has been in the league three seasons, that's a total of 48 possible games. Of those 48, the four offensive stars have only played together in 12 of those games. Basically 3/4 of the games have been lost mostly due to suspensions, and a few more because of injuries. It's a tale of missed opportunities for what should have been the top offense in the NFL over the past three campaigns.
Flash forward to the present, and we may finally get to see what this offense is truly capable of. That is provided of course that Le'veon Bell only plans to hold out during the pre-season. On paper, this offense seems nearly unstoppable. With a rock solid line, and weapons everywhere this team is primed to dominate on offense. We may finally see the 30 points a game offense promised to us after the 2015 season. How long that lasts for is the only question.
As soon as 2018 this offense could be broken apart for good. Ben Roethlisberger has not backed down from his assertion that any season could be his last going forward. His repeated hints at retirement have to be taken seriously at this point. As in any offense, quarterback is the most important key to success. All the talent in the world can't overcome a sub-par quarterback. So if Ben decides to retire, this offense will undoubtedly struggle to find a replacement. Then there's the Le'veon Bell situation. His status is somewhat resolved for this season having had the franchise tag put on him. The question now becomes what happens next year? A long-term deal is very unlikely at this point for Bell. Do the Steelers franchise him again, and suffer a nearly $16 million dollar cap hit? The Steelers could let him walk as a free agent, or try to trade his rights. Both scenarios are as likely as a new contract at this point.
Let's be optimistic and say Roethlisberger comes back, and Bell is either franchised again or re-signed. Can we say with absolute certainty that Martavis Bryant's troubles are behind him? He is one small mis-step away from a hefty suspension from the league. It wouldn't be a wise bet at all to say his off the field issues are completely over. At this point the only sure thing for Pittsburgh over the next few seasons is Antonio Brown. Signed to a long-term deal, and always healthy AB is the one constant in this uncertain future.
So the moral of this story is that this season could, and probably will be the one and only full season with Ben and the three B's. It stacks up to be a very exciting 2017 season, possibly resulting in another trip to the Super Bowl. What happens after that no one knows for sure, but enjoy this group in the short time that you can.