Steelers Have Big Question Mark With Ziggy Hood

Ziggy HoodIn my continuing attempt to keep both you and myself entertained through the slowest month of the National Football League calendar, today I’m looking at perhaps the biggest question mark of all that will be facing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the offseason of 2014. Since being drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Evander ‘Ziggy’ Hood has been anything but worthy of his first round pedigree.

With that said, Hood hasn’t exactly been horrible either and herein lies the problem for the Steelers going forward. Hood has been incredibly durable over his four-year career. He has not missed a game.

Last season, he started all 16 games and recorded three sacks and 25 solo tackles. Because the defensive end position in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense is not one that is expected to put up lots of numbers, this makes it a little more difficult to really evaluate Hood’s career to this point.

At about this spot last season, big things were expected from Hood and those expectations were a direct result of his own offseason work. Hood did major offseason work with personal trainers and got himself into the best shape of his life. By the time training camp rolled around, Hood looked more like a bodybuilder than a football player.

If you’ve been around football a long time then you’ll know that more often than not, the guys who are well-built and ripped along the offensive and defensive lines aren’t always the best players. Think Tony Mandarich for example…

The problem for Hood has been production on the field. He has been nothing short of a model citizen off of it but just hasn’t shown the consistency worthy of a first round draft pick leaving the Steelers in quite a quandary in regards to re-signing him following this season. At times Hood shows quickness in attacking the line of scrimmage while at other times he looks slow off the ball.

One of the most important things a defensive end can do in the LeBeau 3-4 defense is require double teams to block him. This does two things. First, it means more often than not one-on-one situations for the more designated pass rushers which are the outside linebackers. Secondly, you hope┬áthe DE will take up both the offensive tackle and guard leaving the outside backer with nothing more than a tight end or running back in his path to get to the quarterback depending on the offense’s formation.

Hood is not doing this often enough and it has shown in decreased sacks from the outside linebacker positions. Against the run, Hood has been up and down as well. In some cases he can manhandle the opponent across from him and in others he is on roller skates being blown into the second level.

With just about half the teams in the league now running some form of the 3-4 defense, Hood could find decent demand for his services in 2014. This is where it gets delicate for the Steelers because just how much are they willing to pay him and for how long? In Hood’s favor are his durability and the fact that there appears to be little competition for him. Brett Keisel is likely done after this season and Cam Heyward hasn’t proven himself worthy of a first round pick yet either.

Unless Heyward or someone else really steps up the Steelers may be forced to bring Hood back. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world or maybe it would. Heck, I can’t even decide what his fate should be yet. A big 2013 season from Hood would certainly ease my mind as well as that of the Steelers.

Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.

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6 comments on “Steelers Have Big Question Mark With Ziggy Hood

  1. I must be bored the day before the 4th holiday to respond to this, but here we go: First, it is a stretch to believe Hood has sometimes manhandled the offensive line. The exception is that he has made a play and that is because he continues after it or the play just came to him. Very rarely have I ever seen him manhandle anyone to make a play and please tell me if you can count on more than 1 hand how many plays he has made behind the LOS?

    I also have NEVER seen him quick off the ball. Not once. That could be me, but what I have seen from him is that his 1st move have almost always been to stand straight up. This is why the offensive linemen have been able to manhandle him because he gives them position every time.

    As for double teams, I’ve watched many times how a play calls for a double team, but is so unnecessary that the 2nd blocker peels off to get someone else.

    ..and just because there are several teams running the 3-4 that does not mean his services will be in high demand… you have got to be kidding me on that as well as that being the basis of the logic to keep him.

    I believe Hood to be an exceptional athlete but a poor 3-4 DE. I believe he relies on his strength too much and do not worry about leverage, hence his move to stand up before getting into a linemen’s grill first. If Hood can do this consistently, he could hold down the spot, but I doubt he will unless a brick hits him. He may get some looks this offseason from a desperate team, but I do not think the Steelers should be one of them unless he’s willing to re-sign at a backups rate which is the max I can see him as unless he does blow it up this season. If he does, he’s gone via a big contract, but the Steelers should not mourn the loss.

    If this year’s draft pans out and either Spence comes back and performs or Sylvester makes a strong bid for the ILB position, then this team is strong enough to contend this year and use a top pick for a DE next year. Regardless, I see no quandry here and there is NO WAY Ziggy Hood is a priority signing this season. But good job getting me to respond…

    • Clarence I’m glad I could relieve you of your boredom on this fine day! I don’t disagree with much of what you said. Bottom line is that Hood has been horribly inconsistent.

      I think we both see a lot of the same things but I’m just looking at it from a perspective of him having an above average season this year. Wishful thinking I know…

      He’ll never make people forget Aaron Smith or even Keisel but a good season from him does make the negotiations more interesting.

  2. I am still baffled that any team in 2013 says before the end of training camp, “we are a 3-4 defense.” i understand that this is their primary scheme, but from goal line D to Dime defense, you have to have a variety of players. How do they know right now that they don’t have a team that could play 51% of the snaps as a 4-3 instead. The Steelers LBs were not productive last year as a unit, and there is little sign that they will improve this year except that they got a little younger on D. I think as an NFL coach or D coordinator, your job is to look at what the other team does well and stop that, if that means your team plays 4-3 more one week and more 3-4 the next and then plays a pass happy team and spends most of the game playing Nickle and Dime, you do what it takes to shut down the other team. This is what killed the Steelers for years against the Pats, and against GB in the Superbowl, the QB just has to get rid of the ball quickly, spread the field and dump it off. Variety, they say, is the spice of life, I think it is also critical to being a good defensive football team.

    • Thanks for reading Ryan… I think you raise a great question and it’s something I’ve wondered about as well. The Steelers last year spent about 55% of their time in the nickel which for them means the obvious extra DB and then numerous fronts depending on the situation. Dick LeBeau went way too vanilla last year in my opinion after a couple of years of running more ‘hybrid’ type stuff including the amoeba defense with only the nose tackle in a down stance.

      Each NFL team always has a base defense which dictates what they’ll look for in the draft. The Steelers know that there are very few guys who possess the skills to be successful in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defensive schemes. Obviously the more diverse the talent in the base defense the more you can do with other packages. The biggest issue for the Steelers is the ability across the front seven for those guys to be three-down players. Right now, I’m not sure you’ll see Foote very often on third down and then of course what about Steve McLendon at NT? He aims to be a three-down guy but we’ll see.

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