Know Your Enemy: Ryan Hester representin’ the Steely Inferno

I chatted with good man, footballguy, and bourbon aficionado Ryan Hester a couple of weeks ago on the Missouri/UCF game. I said at the time that UCF rocked the black and gold better than Missouri, and we’re going to stay with that color scheme this week.

The Titans are historically bad this season. Their losses have been by 21, 28, 24, and 23 points. Holding the Patriots to 34 points might be a season highlight. The Steelers seem a little offense-challenged so that means they might get stuck in the lower 30s. Let’s see what Ryan has to say.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to focus on the Steelers because the Titans are playing like a MAC school against a full SEC schedule. This was a funny way to start the post, but between this and your anti-Titans tweets this week, I think you’re in full reverse-jinx mode. The fact that Tennessee has struggled this year actually makes me more nervous as a Steelers fan. It makes little sense, but it’s kind of the way us crazies think. [Zach note: This is why I expected Vandy to defeat Missouri. That Gary Pinkel voodoo doll’s coming any day now.] I predicted that they’d beat Philly convincingly and then struggle with/lose to Tennessee.

The “convincingly” part didn’t happen, but a FG drive at the end of the first half where the Steelers basically gave away a TD three different times (Antonio Brown drops ball in endzone, Brown makes catch, cuts back instead of racing for the pylon, Jerricho Cotchery catches ball, trips over his own feet inside the 5) made that game closer than it should have been.

Are you sticking to your original prediction of the Steelers being a 9-7/8-8 team this year? Is Troy Polamalu ever going to be 100% healthy again? 9-7 was my original prediction when I broke down every team in my NFL previews. And while I feel I’ve gotten a few of those wrong already, I’m still feeling confident that I’ll be right – which, in turn, means I feel a lack of confidence in the team. The reasons for the pessimism were primarily a poor offensive line, no running game, and an aging defense. Mendenhall looked great on Sunday, but I wonder how sustainable that will be when the blocking is never going to be better than mediocre.

As for Polamalu, I’m beginning to think the answer to that question is no. He has multiple concussions, which was a worry entering the year, and now he’s injuring other parts of his body pretty consistently and fighting Father Time as well.

Is Rashard Mendenhall’s recovery amazing, or does it look routine since Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles have done well post-ACL tear?
I’m so glad you asked this question because I had this conversation with some friends on Sunday while tailgating. The media seems to covering Mendenhall’s recovery as if it is totally routine, but the coverage of Peterson would have made you think he was a cyborg. Mendenhall’s injury happened a couple weeks after Peterson (Week 17 last season), and he came back 4 weeks later than Peterson. That’s freaking remarkable if you ask me. As for Charles, he had plenty of time. I was expecting him to be perfectly fine (albeit not as good as he has been so far).

Was it a good thing for the Steelers to get the early bye slot? Typically, I’d say no because they’re an older team so you’d think a later break would refresh them for the end-of-season run. But with all the injuries they already had, it was pretty good timing. Of course, the aforementioned Polamalu got “healthy” during the bye and was injured early in Sunday’s game. LaMarr Woodley also leaving the game kind of throws water on the “the early bye was good” line of thinking. [Zach note: The Steelers could put Dick LeBeau back in pads and he’d pick off Hasselbeck.]

Did the Steelers lose to the Raiders on purpose to give the Titans false hope? What a debacle that game was. All week, I was mentally prepared for a game that would be way too close and perhaps even an Oakland win. Just as I convinced myself to get that thought out of my brain and felt comfortable, a 10-point fourth quarter lead was gone. Brutal.

I saw a Steeler fan at a sports bar yesterday who also had a Cowboys pullover. Does she immediately get the boot from Steeler Nation? I wouldn’t even call this person a Steelers fan. Unless it was a situation where she lost a bet or was so cold that she couldn’t possibly survive without a coat and someone let her borrow it, I’d give the boot for sure.

What’s on your (non) beer drinking list for the game? I’ll be out of town for a wedding but will be watching from there, so I’m kind of at the mercy of what’s available. I’ve requested some bourbon though, so that, a glass, and some ice, and I’m all set.

If you have any other writing/blogging projects, let me know. I know we did this two weeks ago. I discussed my weekly Footballguys collaboration with Jeff Haseley and also the weekly blog posts I’m doing. But since we last did this for Mizzou-UCF, the blog has gotten a lot of hits. Along with thanking you for promoting it, I know I’ve been linked by @FantasyPros_NFL and @fflibrarian in consecutive weeks and have broken my “most hits in one day” record five times in two weeks. The FF Librarian linked my F.A.S.T. articles, and the Fantasy Pros seem to like the “FLEX-ing Your Muscles” weekly comparison of flex options.

Thanks again, Ryan. Follow this dude on Twitter.

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