5 for Friday: Winning the most important stat

You've heard 1,000 times how quarterbacks get too much credit when a team wins and too much blame for when a team loses. But when a player touches the ball offensively on virtually every snap, it's hard for that to not be the case.

That's why, when speaking with the media earlier this week, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was blunt when talking about how people in his positions and quarterbacks are intrinsically tied together.

"Guys like Kenny (Pickett) and myself, we're measured by wins and losses," Tomlin said. "He and I talk about that often and openly. We know what our jobs are. Our jobs are to win. And so, that's where we are. That's where our focus is. You know, I love the fact that he embraces that."

That's why you used to hear former Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger openly talk about never having a losing season in his years with the team.

Much like head coaches, quarterbacks are measured by their win-loss record. It's not something that's an official statistic like it is in Major League Baseball for pitchers. But people look at it in the same light.

And winning has been something the Steelers have done, regardless of who their quarterback has been. Now, maybe the number of wins hasn't been up to the level of expectations for many – the team hasn't won a Super Bowl since 2008 and hasn't been to one since 2010 – but despite multiple changes, the goal remains the same: Win as many games as possible, regardless of how that is accomplished.

"You've got to win at all costs in this game," Pickett said this week. "That's all I truly care about. Of course, you want to light up the stat sheet, but as long as we're getting the wins. I'm OK with that. I sleep good with getting a win. So, keep pushing, keep having that mindset, stay together as a group, and we'll be alright."

The Steelers are 6-3 this season. With Baltimore's victory over the Bengals Thursday night, they remain tied with the Ravens (8-3) in the loss column in the AFC North standings.

And they're now 12-5 in games in which Pickett starts and finishes in his young career. That's a season's worth of games.

That's important. There have been a lot of comparisons made recently regarding the numbers put up by Roethlisberger and Pickett in their first two seasons. But outside of one number – wins and losses – the rest of it is unfair.

Roethlisberger and Pickett have played in completely different eras under different rules and with different teammates and coaches. It's no different than comparing what Roethlisberger did with Terry Bradshaw.

But that one stat by which they can be compared is wins and losses, the same way Tomlin can be compared to Bill Cowher and Chuck Noll.

The game evolves over the years. Offenses and defenses change, as do rules. But wins and losses do not.

Tomlin's right. Head coaches and quarterbacks are measured by wins and losses.

• The Steelers have another player who perhaps should be measured by wins and losses – outside linebacker T.J. Watt.

It's been well-documented how poorly the Steelers do in terms of wins and losses without Watt in the lineup.

But no non-quarterback in recent NFL history has been as dominant against divisional opponents as Watt.

Watt has played in 35 career regular season games against the Browns, Bengals and Ravens. In those games, Watt has recorded 161 tackles, 39 sacks, 47 tackles for a loss, 71 quarterback hits, 16 pass defenses, 7 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

More importantly, the Steelers' record in those 35 games is 26-8-1 when Watt plays against an AFC North opponent.

That kind of dominance shouldn't be possible. After all, teams that don't face Watt all the time might feel they can do things to handle him and underestimate his ability to wreck a game. The other AFC North opponents? They've seen it happen often enough that they know what's coming. They just don't often have an answer for it.

And you'd think that would be job No. 1 each year for Cleveland, Baltimore and Cincinnati. You gear up each offseason to beat the other teams in your division.

But, on the other side of that, Watt – who excels at film study – also knows these opponents better than perhaps they know themselves.

Watt's numbers against the Browns, against whom he has 16 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss are well-documented. But he's also had similar success against the Ravens and Bengals, as well.

When Watt plays against the Browns, however, the Steelers typically win. They're 9-1-1 in his 11 games against Cleveland.

• We've already seen an NFL-record 10 rookie quarterbacks start games this season – obviously excluding the league's first season – surpassing the record of nine set in the 2019 season.

One of those 2019 quarterbacks was undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges for the Steelers, who went 3-3 in his six starts.

As we saw that season, when the Steelers also were forced to give Mason Rudolph his first career start with Ben Roethlisberger injured, winning with inexperienced quarterbacks can be difficult. The Steelers were 5-3 in Rudolph's starts, 3-3 in games started by Hodges. And both played some games in relief of the other.

Rookie starters across the league this season haven't fared any better. In fact, they've been worse – much worse – going 13-21 in their starts. That doesn't include a start by Minnesota's Jaren Hall, who was knocked from the game in the first quarter he started for the Vikings.

But even with that win – engineered by former Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs – rookie starters are only winning at a .333 rate this season.

And that includes Houston's C.J. Stroud's 5-4 record as a starter. Take that out of the equation and rookie starters are 8-17, including an 0-1 record by Cleveland's Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who will make his second career start for the Browns Sunday against the Steelers.

• The Steelers are 24-5 against rookie quarterbacks since 2007, including 1-1 this season. They lost to Stroud and the Texans, but defeated the Titans with Will Levis at quarterback.

That .828 winning percentage against rookie quarterbacks is the best in the NFL during that time period.

There have been plenty of stories written about how New England's Bill Belichick dominates rookie quarterbacks. Do an internet search and you'll find dozens of them. 

But even he pales in comparison to what Tomlin-coached teams have done against them. Belichick is 25-8 as a head coach against rookie quarterbacks. His .758 winning percentage against rookie quarterbacks is good. Tomlin's winning percentage is better.

The Browns, who are expected to start rookie Thompson-Robinson, have been a big part of that. 

The Steelers are 6-1 against the Browns when they start a rookie quarterback. The lone win came back in 2012, when Brandon Weedon threw for 154 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception while getting sacked four times to defeat the Charlie Batch-led Steelers.

Batch was intercepted three times, the Steelers fumbled eight times, losing five to fall to the Browns, 20-14.

The Steelers, meanwhile, are 2-0 against the Browns under Tomlin with rookie quarterbacks. Hodges beat the Browns in 2019 and Pickett defeated them in the regular season finale last season.

Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

• The Senior Bowl announced its 75th Anniversary Team and it definitely has a Pittsburgh flavor to it.

Former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and Hall of Fame center Dermontti Dawson both made the team, which was compiled by a vote from fans and then all 32 NFL general managers.

Also named to the team were four Pittsburgh natives, quarterback Dan Marino, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, defensive lineman Jason Taylor and punter Pat McAfee.

That group will be honored at this year's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Feb. 3.

The Senior Bowl previously honored its 50th Anniversary Team in 1998 with former Steelers stars Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster and Joe Greene making the cut.

The 75th team did not include voting on those players, as the Senior Bowl wanted to celebrate the players who have attended the college football all-star game in more recent years.