As a rookie, Ziggy Hood made the transition from a defensive tackle in Missouri's defensive scheme to defensive end in the Steelers' 3-4 front. The early steps of that adjustment behind him, he wants to translate his knowledge to on-field production.
"I tell myself, 'I know the playbook. I know what to do. I've just got to do it,' " he told PFW this week.
Hood, the Steelers' first-round pick in 2009, played in all 16 games as a reserve last season, notching eight tackles and one sack as he learned Dick LeBeau's defense, which requires defensive ends to be stout at the point of attack. Though he had a strong preseason, racking up three sacks, he said he didn't start to get comfortable in the defense until later in the regular season. Indeed, his best game came in Week 16, when he recorded his only sack of the campaign and recovered a fumble late in a 23-20 win over the Ravens.
"I wasn't thinking about anything," Hood said of his approach late in the season. "I was going out there and playing my technique."
As a senior at Missouri, Hood notched 62 tackles (seven for loss) and five sacks playing inside in the Tigers' scheme. He followed that impressive performance with an excellent workout at the NFL Scouting Combine, when he bench-pressed 225 pounds 34 times and was hand-timed at 4.83 seconds in one of his 40-yard dash attempts. Many thought Hood would land with a team employing a 4-3 scheme, but the Steelers, looking to get younger along the defensive line, took him with the No. 32 overall pick.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Hood's top attribute is his quickness of the ball. He wants to make strides in his hand quickness, too, which he believes will help him as a pass rusher. He's worked on getting better at "shooting" his hands, or rapidly getting his hands up into the opponent's chest area. He also believes he began to play with better leverage as last season progressed — a critical skill for a defensive lineman of his size.
Hood has tried to emulate the Steelers' starting defensive ends, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, who have a combined 199 starts. However, he has found that process challenging and marvels at their knowledge of the game.
"When I watch them on film, I'm like, 'Wow, how can I ever play like those guys?' " Hood said.
Hood, who likely will be a backup this season, is focused on being assignment-sound in the Steelers' scheme.
"As long as I secure my job, that's a huge success to me," he said.
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