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fordfixer
08-02-2010, 01:41 AM
Steelers DE Hood is making his (spin) move
By Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, August 2, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 93011.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_693011.html)

Aaron Smith, who knows a thing or two about playing defensive end, made a prediction Sunday about second-year man Ziggy Hood.

"I think he's going to be something special," Smith said.

It may take some time for Hood, a 2009 first-round pick, to prove Smith right since he is blocked from the starting lineup by his mentor as well as Brett Keisel.

Trying to get Hood on the field more this season would be a nice problem to have for the Steelers since that would mean Smith and Keisel stay healthy, something the duo hasn't done in the same season since 2006.

Keisel, who starts at right defensive end, missed six games in 2008 with calf and knee injuries. Smith, meanwhile, didn't play after the middle of October last season because of a torn labrum.

Smith and the Steelers got good news Saturday when the 12th-year veteran practiced in pads for the first time since the shoulder injury and didn't experience any problems.

"You worry, 'Are you still able to do it?' " Smith said of concerns he had after the lengthy layoff. "The first day answers the questions for you."

When asked the answers he received after the first two practices of training camp, Smith smiled.

"I felt good," he said. "I like playing."

Hood apparently does, too.

He has stood out in drills during the early part of training camp. Saturday, Hood delivered a welcome-to-the-NFL moment to rookie guard Maurkice Pouncey when he knocked down the first-round pick during a one-on-one drill.

Yesterday, he executed a textbook spin move and went right around offensive tackle Jonathan Scott in a similar drill.

"He is markedly better than he was a year ago," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Hood. "To this point, he's meeting the challenges."

Hood said he is quicker and stronger than he was a year ago.

"The game is slowing down little by little," Hood said.

Translation: He has a solid grasp of the playbook and is doing considerably less thinking on the field.

Hood is versatile enough to play both end positions in the Steelers' 3-4 defense. Defensive line coach John Mitchell is also getting him some work at nose tackle to see if Hood can handle that position as well.

The 6-foot-3 Hood played tackle in a 4-3 defense at Missouri, and his weight is up to 310 pounds he is listed at 300 pounds on the roster.

It is not that the Steelers are grooming Hood as an eventual replacement for nose tackle Casey Hampton, who signed a three-year contract with the team last February.

They are putting together contingency plans and perhaps trying to find ways to get Hood more playing time this season.

"You never know how injuries are going to unfold, so you want your best players on the field," Mitchell said.

Hood said he is willing to bide him time.

"The more I see and learn from (Smith and Keisel), the better it makes me," Hood said. "I may not get in many reps during the game, but if I can learn visually and train myself mentally, when I go in there, it won't be a big difference."