doesn't everybody pancake Ziggy?
Mark Kaboly @MarkKaboly_Trib:
Adams pancakes Ziggy to delight of on watching Tomlin
From Dale Lolley's blog:
@ It probably won't surprise too many, but Mike Adams ate Ziggy Hood's lunch in one-on-ones today.
Cam Heyward looks highly motivated this season, and it won't be a surprise to see him supplant Hood in the starting lineup.
Steelers Will Have Heated Competition For Backup Roles Along Defensive Line
Aug 16th, 2013 by Dominic Di Tolla
Pittsburgh’s starting defensive line appears to be set in stone at the moment.
Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel will man the defensive end spots once again this fall, while Steve McLendon is set to take over for “Big Snack” at the nose. 2011 first round pick Cameron Heyward is set to be the primary backup at defensive end and should hopefully chip in here and there to keep Hood and “The Beard” fresh during the 2013 campaign.
While those particular spots are basically nailed down, the competition for spots on the 53-man roster and practice squad figures to be very heated between the rest of Pittsburgh’s backup defensive linemen over the next two and a half weeks.
Before I begin, I would like to say that Al Woods has emerged as one of the most pleasant surprises for the Steelers during this offseason. A former practice squad player who has paid his dues and climbed up Pittsburgh’s depth chart since 2011, the lineman’s hard work and tutelage under his position coach John Mitchell has definitely paid off since he began his latest stint with Pittsburgh. It also has not hurt that the former 2010 fourth round pick has put his versatility on display during this particular offseason.
A defensive end in 2011 and 2012, Woods worked extensively as the Steelers’ second-team nose tackle during OTAs. Since training camp began though, Woods has done a solid job as Hood’s backup at left defensive end. Woods then continued his solid play when he shined in last Saturday’s game against the Giants when he logged nine tackles and one sack. At this point, I see no reason why Woods will be unable to entrench himself as Hood’s primary backup on the left side.
If the Steelers elect to carry another a fifth defensive end for depth purposes though, then it will be up to 2013 seventh round pick Nick Williams and 2013 UDFA signee Brian Arnfelt to duke it out for an extended role on the team.
Arnfelt got a head start on Williams when recorded two tackles in Pittsburgh’s first preseason game, but Williams should be able to make his debut this Monday against Washington. Like the battle at the nose tackle I will discuss below, both players are promising and both have practice squad eligibility.
Thus, the Steelers’ coaching staff could be inclined to stash one or both players on the practice squad for a season to learn under Mitchell and develop. Williams in particular would benefit, especially since he is newer to the game of football but is such a physically athletic specimen (6’4″ 309 lbs.) who received high praise from Mitchell after he was drafted. Arnfelt also has the type of size and deceptive athletic ability one looks for in a 5-technique (6’4″ 298 lbs.), and I think that he could become a solid role player for Pittsburgh in the trenches if he is given a couple years to develop.
As far as the interior of Pittsburgh’s defensive line is concerned, the nose tackle battle between Hebron Fangupo and Alameda Ta’amu should be very intriguing to follow as well.
While Fangupo appeared to be leading the competition before the first preseason game after Ta’amu spent much of the offseason dealing with legal issues and on the PUP list, Ta’amu has come on strong lately and did a fine job against the Giants in Pittsburgh’s first preseason contest. Luckily for the Steelers, both Ta’amu and Fangupo have practice squad eligibility.
If the Steelers are fortunate enough, then they might just be able to sneak the loser of this competition on to the practice squad if they can clear waivers. If both play well during the rest of the preseason though, then I am sure that another team with a need for depth at nose tackle will try to sign one of them on the waiver wire.
Although they do not figure to see much playing time during the 2013 regular season, these backups do not need to look any further than ahead of themselves on the depth chart to see some late-round and undrafted success stories in the forms of Keisel and McLendon. Even Woods appears primed to step into a much larger role this fall, and he was an afterthought to many before last year began.
Mitchell has worked his magic and helped to develop unheralded players before, and these backups are in a perfect situation in Pittsburgh to hone their skills and improve in time. Of course, those that are deemed worthy will stick around past the preseason. Thus, the mad scramble for spots on the practice squad and the 53-man roster should continue to heat up between the aforementioned players over the coming weeks.
If 7 linemen are kept, give McClendon some reps at DE and keep both Fangupo and Ta'amu...stash Williams or Arnfelt on the PS...
If McClendon has some reps at DE, there is a lot of flexibility on game day, if needed...I think that, right now, both Fangupo and Ta'amu are better players than either Williams or Arnfelt...
On the Steelers: A make-or-break year for Ziggy Hood?
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers will pack up and leave Saint Vincent College for good today, completing that portion of training camp without trying to negotiate a contract extension with any of their players.
And that means they remain unsure about what they have in Ziggy Hood, their starting left defensive end and a first-round draft pick, even as he heads into his fifth season.
Is Hood, 26, worth keeping around longer? Must they see how he performs in 2013 before making a move after the season? Or are they willing to let his contract expire and seek his fortune elsewhere next year?
"I'm not worried about the contract or anything like that," Hood said. "Because if I do what I'm capable of doing, everything will work out. If I'm worried about it, then I'm not focusing on what I have to do and that's to help this team win."
Hood started every game last season for the NFL's No. 1 overall defense that finished No. 2 against the run. He started 15 games, including a playoff game, for the NFL's No. 1 defense in 2011. He started more than half of the 2010 season for the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense, No. 2 overall.
He must be doing something right, because his coaches keep playing him and the defense keeps excelling. Yet, others do not see it that way. Some, including profootballfocus.com, believe he has been a weak link.
This was included in the evaluation of the Steelers this summer by the website:
"What on earth is going on with Ziggy Hood? If there was no one else to turn to, you may understand the Steelers reluctance to bench him, but Cameron Heyward looks like he has the ability to be a high quality end. At least his run defense was a little better down the stretch, but this looks almost like a team hoping a clear first-round bust can be disguised by playing time."
Hood said he knows nothing about PFF, nor anyone else who thinks he has not played well.
"Any first-round pick is always going to have a microscope on him, whether a wide receiver, a defensive back or an offensive or defensive lineman. You're always going to be the guy they look at extra hard," Hood said.
"I couldn't care less what people think. Until they can put their hands in the dirt and go against me, it's kind of hard to judge another man, especially at that position. I'm getting positive feedback from my coach, [that] is what I need to worry about."
Defensive ends in a 3-4 defense do not get many chances to accumulate statistics. Hood had two fumble recoveries last season to bring him to three in his career. He has never been credited with a forced fumble. He had three sacks last season and 42 tackles. He was third on the team with 17 quarterback pressures but Brett Keisel, the starting right end, ran away with the lead with 40.
There might be more opportunities for sacks because defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has asked his ends to get on the edge a little more to rush the quarterback.
"I think it shows some degree of success out there," Hood said of the change. "Opportunities are going to present themselves."
Not only was Hood 32nd among the NFL's first-round draft picks after the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2009, he ultimately replaced Aaron Smith, who was considered their best end since they switched to a 3-4 in 1982. Hood had to try to live up to high expectations and fill some big shoes.
"What do I think? I think I've gotten better over the past four years," said Hood, who added he should improve again this year.
"Definitely I took great strides in this training camp. This season I have a lot of things to show, a lot of things to do out there. Lord willing and I stay healthy, the sky's the limit."
Wheaton catching on
"Just catching the ball, that's first and foremost. If you don't catch the ball, there is so much that can go wrong."
Pirates outfielder Starling Marte describing a can of corn fly ball hit to left field in St. Louis? Nope, that's Steelers rookie Markus Wheaton explaining the most important job of a punt returner.
Monday against the Redskins, Wheaton will get to show off those skills for the first time in a preseason game, according to coach Mike Tomlin. Wheaton has been impressive in his first pro training camp and some of the Steelers' better receivers also were Pro Bowl punt returners -- Lynn Swann, Louis Lipps and Antonio Brown among them.
"Like they say, the more you can do, the more valuable you are, no matter where it is," said Wheaton, a third-round draft choice from Oregon State. "Wherever I get the opportunity, I would love to take advantage of it."
Brown professes to be ready, willing and able to do anything his coaches ask of him, even if it is returning punts again. But Brown, in his second season as a starting receiver, has to feel the way some of his coaches do, that it would be nice if one of his teammates showed enough proficiency there to take over.
Teams now put much more emphasis on returning punts than they do kickoffs because not many kicks are returned anymore. Nevertheless, veteran return man LaRod Stephens-Howling will go back to return kickoffs Monday, Tomlin said.
"I think it's an exciting play, it adds a dimension to the game," Brown said of the punt return. "Punt return will be a key position in football, with field position."
• Tomlin gave away no plans as to what running backs he will use Monday in Washington other than to say that all the healthy ones will play. It remains to be seen whether he will play the two who were injured in practice Thursday, rookie Le'Veon Bell (knee) and Isaac Redman (stinger). Bell went through practice Saturday while Redman was limited.
• Tomlin said the first teams will play longer Monday than they did in the first game against the New York Giants.
• The Steelers went through their final practice at Saint Vincent Saturday afternoon without pads.
• Cornerback Cortez Allen returned to practice the past few days and showed some good moves Saturday, including one where he intercepted a pass. He had minor knee surgery two weeks ago.
Someone correct me if Im wrong, but it appeared to me when I was watching highlights on NFL.com that Hood was playing NT a couple times on the Chiefs last drive of the half. I thought McLendon did a great job when he was in there. I wonder if we wouldnt have stopped them on that drive if McLendon was playing NT.
Perhaps...but, evaluating players trumps winning in an exhibition game...