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

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The next time someone says...

"Kenny Pickett is a bust!"

You should respond by asking, "Compared to whom?"

Kenny Pickett is no Ben Roethlisberger. Doesn't pretend to be. In fact, he's not even a C.J. Stroud, as many fans have pointed out on social media this week. But to say he's a bust is downright ludicrous!

For one, he's piloting an offense that's extremely young and inexperienced at the skill positions. When I say inexperienced, I don't mean they're all rookies. Rather, they're players that have less than three full seasons in the NFL. If you count 'em up, and I did, there are 10 significant contributors at the Steelers' skill positions (QB, RB, WR & TE), and eight of them (including Pickett) qualify as "inexperienced" under those guidelines. WR's Allen Robinson (10th season) and Diontae Johnson (5th season) are the exceptions.

Compare that to Roethlisberger's second year in the league, when he had skill position weapons like Jerome Bettis (13th season), Duce Staley (9th season), Hines Ward (8th season), and Antwaan Randle-El (4th season) at his disposal on way to leading Pittsburgh to its fifth Super Bowl victory.

In addition, ask any veteran QB around the league and they'll tell you that the second year is sometimes the most difficult. Teams start game-planning around you after having an entire off-season to watch tape. Roethlisberger's completion percentage dropped by nearly four percentage points in his second season. Pickett's completion percentage has currently dropped by less than two points off last year's mark.

Right now, Pickett is two things: a game-manager, and a leader. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as he keeps growing. Yes, it's frustrating to watch him struggle for the first three quarters, seemingly in every game. But, boy, when he turns it on in the fourth quarter it's a thing of beauty and a sure sign of growth. Just ask Tomlin.

Pickett has already matched last season's mark of three fourth-quarter comebacks with more than half a season to go. He's also only one game-winning-drive away from tying his mark of four set as a rookie. In addition, he's improved his passer rating by nearly five points and is just one passing touchdown shy of the seven he threw in 13 games last year.

Perhaps Pickett's best attribute thus far has been his ability to take care of the football. After throwing two interceptions in the opener, he's thrown just two more since, and none in the last four games. The latter mark has contributed to the Steelers winning three of their last four, with the one loss during that span (to Jacksonville) being a game in which he didn't finish due to injury.

The Steelers are 3-0 this season when not turning the football over, and 4-1 when having just one turnover, so you can't understate the importance of this.

If Pickett continues to grow and get better during the stretch run, the Steelers will be a dangerous team in January.