The Big Noise kiss of death is officially in midseason form.
Advertised heavily in this space over the past several weeks, rookie Le’Veon Bell had his preseason debut cut short after just four carries, exiting stage left with a mid-foot sprain. With Isaac Redman unavailable (stinger), a lighter, quicker Jonathan Dwyer replaced him in the lineup. Against Washington, the backup went on to compile an impressive 80 yards on 16 touches, though he also lost a fumble.
The true extent of Bell’s injury will be reveled sometime Tuesday after MRI results confirm the damage, if any. Sickos who drafted entirely too early and shelled out a sizable amount for his services (You’re reading him. Paid $26 for him in an 'experts' draft last week) wait with bated breath. If tests diagnose a Lisfranc sprain, it would be an unfortunate end to a promising season. Under that scenario, Redman and Dwyer would again pick up the slack with LaRod Stephens-Howling peppered in, forming a timeshare of unknown distribution. Thrust into similar roles last year, the pair generated only modest production, averaging 5.5 and 6.5 standard fantasy points per game respectively. However, each tallied at least one 100-yard game. Overall Dwyer, the more attractive of the two, racked 69.5 percent of his 623 rushing yards after contact. Doomsday strikes Bell, and No. 27 would be a top-35 RB, a rusher in the DeAngelo Williams/Andre Brown class.
Ben Roethlisberger and passing cohorts Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders would also receive a value boost. With the ground game in-flux and the Steelers’ defense aging, Todd Haley would likely lean heavily on the QB’s arm. Roughly 525-550 attempts would not be out of the question.
However, if Bell’s MRI comes back clean, it’s entirely possible the ex-Spartan could return to action in short order, potentially in time for the season opener against Tennessee. Prior to the setback, all indications from local beat writers and organization insiders pointed to ‘The Big Rig’ becoming a throwback hauler. Despite Pittsburgh’s offensive line concerns, his three-down skill set, tackle-shedding abilities and strong track-record of durability at Michigan State had him slated for at least 300 total touches and a probable RB top-20 campaign. Even if doctors clear him, his 35.8 ADP (RB21) according to Fantasy Football Calculator is bound to drop. Again assuming only short-term injury, he would absolutely be worth the investment if he slips into the middle rounds.
For now, Fantasyland waits and prays. Someone, please, talk me off the ledge.
(UPDATE: According to Steelers beat-writer Ed Bouchette, Bell has dodged the dreaded Lisfranc, but could be out "a while." His preseason is certainly done, but with nearly three weeks until the regular season kicks off, he may not miss Week 1. Still, it's anyone's best guess. For now, downgrade him a few spots on your cheat sheet. However, if he falls anywhere past pick No. 60 overall, buy on the bear. Again, it's clear Pittsburgh wants to make him the featured back when healthy.)
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