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PSU_dropout43
01-11-2011, 01:46 AM
Ziggy Hood's emergence fortifies Steelers' D-line
by Scott Brown


Defensive end Ziggy Hood is one of the strongest players on the Steelers, though apparently there are different classifications for that quality.

"I'm grown-man strong," veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "He's weight strong."

Two things that aren't in question when it comes to Hood: He has gotten stronger as his second NFL season has progressed, and his emergence couldn't have come at a better time for the Steelers.

Hood collected all three of his three sacks -- tied for third on the team -- in the Steelers' final four games, including one after a perfectly executed spin move in Cleveland.

His increased production didn't just result from extended playing time due to an injury to starting defensive end Aaron Smith. It is also the product of Hood getting healthy after battling a nagging ankle injury earlier this season.

"All of the pieces are starting to fall into place," the Steelers' 2009 first-round draft pick said. "Now it's just the small things like more technique and really staying at it. All of that can be added through film study and critiquing yourself."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has said that NFL players make the most improvement from the first to their second year.

The Steelers may have had a problem had that not been the case with Hood.

The arm injury sustained by Smith, one of the Steelers' most valuable players, thrust Hood into the starting lineup at the end of October.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder started the final 10 regular-season games at left defensive end and will stay there for the foreseeable future.

Smith almost certainly won't play Saturday against the Ravens in an AFC Divisional playoff game. And there are no guarantees that the 12-year veteran will return, even if the Steelers make it to Super Bowl XLV.

The Steelers are awaiting results from an MRI before deciding how to proceed with Smith, but he hasn't practiced since getting hurt in an Oct. 24 game in Miami.

The most positive spin coach Mike Tomlin could put on Smith's uncertain situation Monday was pointing out that Smith dressed for practice last week.

"It's been good to get him back on the field," Tomlin said. "I like seeing Aaron in a helmet."

Seeing Hood in one is not a bad alternative for Tomlin and the Steelers.

The former Missouri standout is strong, athletic and conscientious. He is also one month shy of his 24th birthday, so he should have plenty of upside.

"I kind of stumbled a little bit when I got injured earlier this season with my ankle," Hood said. "I couldn't use all of my physical ability, speed and everything, so I had to use my mind more than anything."

Hood has given the Steelers' pass rush a boost with his brainy and brawny approach to the game. He also helped the Steelers set a team record by allowing just 62.8 rushing yards a game this season.

"He's come a long way," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said of Hood. "He's got a lot of natural ability; he's strong for his age."

Sack Attack

The Steelers led the NFL with 48 sacks this season, three fewer than their team record set in 1996 and matched in 2008. Linebackers accounted for 68 percent of the sacks, which is no surprise as outside linebackers are the edge pass-rushers in a 3-4 defense.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau didn't just rely on James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley to get after opposing quarterbacks.

Inside linebacker James Farrior tied his career-high with six sacks, and nickel back William Gay proved to be an effective blitzer, as he notched a pair of sacks along with cornerback Bryant McFadden.

More than half of the sacks that the Steelers got from their defensive ends came in the final two games. Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood were each credited with a sack against the Carolina Panthers and the Browns.

Here is a breakdown of where the Steelers got their sacks this season in terms of positions:

Outside linebacker: 22

Inside linebacker: 10.5

Defensive end: 7.5

Cornerback: 6

Nose tackle: 1

Safety: 1

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 17532.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_717532.html)

Oviedo
01-11-2011, 06:07 AM
Imagine the mess we would be in if we had opted not to take Ziggy and gone OL in 2009 like many wanted. With Smith's injury we could have been in trouble. Hood has been very good and getting better each week.

ikestops85
01-11-2011, 10:52 AM
Imagine the mess we would be in if we had opted not to take Ziggy and gone OL in 2009 like many wanted. With Smith's injury we could have been in trouble. Hood has been very good and getting better each week.

Hood has improved by leaps and bounds the last half of the season. I think going into that draft most people were saying we needed to get some big uglies. It didn't matter what side of the ball. Anyway, I think it is hard to argue with any of Colbert's 1st round picks. I think he is one of the best personnel guys in the game.

TanK_Von_Oelhoffen
01-11-2011, 12:21 PM
I've seen leaps & bounds of improvement in Ziggy's game.

Another way to say it would be "he's been gettin ziggy with it".

I love Aaron Smith to death, I'd go so far as to say he's the most underrated d-lineman in the NFL, but has skills comparable to Smith, the emergence of Ziggy gives us some much needed depth on the d-line. :ratsuck

papillon
01-11-2011, 01:22 PM
I have no idea how Gibson would have panned out in a Steeler uniform, but at this point in the season and with Ziggy's improvement the holding of a roster spot for Smith seems like a bad idea. Even if he were to rehab and be able to play in the AFCCG or Super Bowl should the Steelers move on I doubt he would replace Hood at this point, this season.

Should have IRd him and kept Gibson to see what he develops into, even if it it's trade bait on draft day.

Pappy

RuthlessBurgher
01-11-2011, 04:42 PM
Imagine the mess we would be in if we had opted not to take Ziggy and gone OL in 2009 like many wanted. With Smith's injury we could have been in trouble. Hood has been very good and getting better each week.

Frankly, I like our depth at DE (Nick Eason, Steve McLendon) better than our depth at OT (Jon Scott, Tony Hills), so I still think it would have been a good idea to take OL in '09 instead of DL (nothing against Ziggy, who has been solid of late).

I wanted Oher that year once he fell into the 20's, but Baltimore traded up for him and we did not.

Imagine if we got Oher instead of them. There wouldn't be a monumental dropoff at LT from Starks to Jon Scott to deal with this year. And without Oher in Baltimore, they wouldn't have a legit replacement for Jared Gaither, who has been out injured all year. James Harrison would have a field day against the likes of Oniel Cousins.

fezziwig
01-11-2011, 04:59 PM
I'm very happy that things are working out with Ziggy. Great timing for him to cut his teeth with this defense. I was one of the persons that was complaining after pre season that I thought he should have been showing more improvement and starting with a rotation system. He must have read my post.

focosteeler
01-15-2011, 10:52 PM
Ziggy showed up big tonight....aaron smith said he was going to be good I guess I never shouldve doubted :tt2 :tt2

Oviedo
01-15-2011, 11:08 PM
Ziggy showed up big tonight....aaron smith said he was going to be good I guess I never shouldve doubted :tt2 :tt2

But isn't he another Tomlin "bust" :stirpot

You know Tomlin can't draft like that coaching legend in Arizona

feltdizz
01-15-2011, 11:52 PM
Not to knock A. Smith but when a thread was started with Smith's possible return it got about 2 responses...

I think it was because most fans are happy with Ziggy's progress and don't want Smith to rush back.

Ziggy has been a monster the last few weeks.

ramblinjim
01-16-2011, 12:04 AM
Big Ziggy tore it up tonight. He was all over the place.

DukieBoy
01-16-2011, 12:38 AM
Ziggy was a Manimal tonight. Good coaching and teammates have molded his raw talent into strong form.