A fan's guide to defending the Pittsburgh Steelers' honor at mid-season

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The next time someone says...

"The Steelers are pretenders, and they're the worst 5-3 team in the NFL"

You should respond by saying that "style points don't matter" (thanks, Coach T)!

Yes, there have been times when the Steelers have looked like frauds. The 30-7 loss to San Francisco in the season-opener, and the 30-6 loss at Houston come to mind right off the bat. But to be fair, those games were early in the season and the 49ers and Texans aren't exactly chopped liver.

In fact, the 49ers jumped out to a 5-0 start and scored 30 or more points in each of the first five games, including a whopping 42 against the vaunted Dallas Cowboys defense. The Texans are led by a rookie head coach (DeMeco Ryans) and have gone all in with their fantastic rookie quarterback (C.J. Stroud). Thus, they are experiencing a roller-coaster type year thus far, beating the likes of division-leaders Jacksonville (37-17!) and New Orleans, while losing to teams like Atlanta and Carolina.

Speaking of the Jaguars (the Steelers' only other loss thus far), they've won five games in a row and are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. While they recently beat the Steelers 20-10, the game might have had a different outcome had starting quarterback Kenny Pickett not been injured. Or, if the refs hadn't had it in for them (thanks, Diontae Johnson!).

Injuries have been a factor for the Steelers, especially on offense. Two of the Steelers’ three losses have come when Pickett was forced out of the game due to injuries. Johnson missed four games after a hamstring injury in week two. Starting TE Pat Freiermuth has missed the last four games with his own hamstring injury. Defensively, All-Pro DT Cam Heyward missed six games after suffering a groin injury in week one, while fellow All-Pro FS Minkah Fitzpatrick is currently out with a hamstring injury. Starting ILB Cole Holcomb was also lost for the season with a knee injury last Thursday against Tennessee.

Having said that, injuries are part of the game, and the best teams seem to overcome them. And according to some, the Baltimore Ravens are the team that's "playing the best" right now in the AFC.

Need I remind you that the Steelers beat the Ravens just over a month ago, 17-10?

"But the Ravens gave the game away with dropped passes", some say. Hogwash. That's part of the game. Any team can play the "what if" game, but at the end of the day, a win is a win. And the Steelers got key contributions from role players (at the time) Miles Killebrew (blocked a punt resulting in a safety) and rookie CB Joey Porter, Jr. (endzone interception in the 4th quarter) to set up Kenny Pickett's game-winning 41-yard scoring bomb to George Pickens with 1:17 remaining.

Now, I'm not saying that the Steelers are the best team in the league right now. They're far from it. But the point of this article is that they're going to be a force to be reckoned with if they keep improving -- like they did a year ago.

Finally, I would also argue that the Steelers may be the BEST 5-3 team in the NFL right now. They have the best outside linebackers in the league in T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, and they've won three of their last four games. Their eight opponents thus far have a combined winning percentage of .552 (37-30 record). Only Jacksonville's opponents have a higher combined winning percentage at the moment, with the Jaguars' foes sporting a 34-27 record (.557).

They're winning ugly, but there are signs of improvement.