Ready for more bad Ziggy than good

Ziggy Hood won't jump right in for Aaron Smith and succeed. The second-year DE needs experience, says SCI columnist Mark Kaboly.

For the Steelers, it's time to get Ziggy with it.

But let's see if Ziggy Hood is with it yet before booking any plans to Jerry's World in early February.

Early indications suggest that Hood could very well be the person who brings the words ‘gap' and ‘sound' back into our vocabulary for the long haul. As we found out two of the last three years, if you are a defensive lineman on a Dick LeBeau defense and you aren't gap sound, there's going to be significant problems.

Now, Hood is fast; Hood has a motor that never stops; and Hood is excitable, and those are very important attributes to have if you are a defensive end … in a 4-3 defensive scheme. To be a good end in the Steelers' 3-4 alignment, one must refrain from letting athletic ability get in the way of assignments.

Yeah, it's a crazy concept, but a concept that must be followed, and Hood isn't ready to do that on a consistent basis just yet. Right now, Hood is more like a Jared Allen than an Aaron Smith, and that, my friends, won't help a team remain No. 1 in the league against the rush.

Hood will replace Smith at left defensive end Sunday against New Orleans and for the next eight or nine Sundays after that. So he now becomes one of the most important players on the Steelers' defense because failure is not an option at that position.

Failure at controlling his gap, failure to control his passion to make every play will ultimately cause the Steelers to fail.

It happened in 2007 and it happened in 2009 with much more seasoned replacements, so it sure as heck can happen with a second-year guy making his first start Sunday night.

"You have to do your job and do what you have to do to let other guys do their job," James Farrior said.

That's a lot easier said than done especially with a young guy who played his entire collegiate career at Missouri as a 4-3 tackle whose only responsibility was to get up the field and make plays.

Not only did Hood have to move from defensive tackle to defensive end in the pros, he had to change schemes. It's a process to acquire the discipline that guys like Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel and Smith have. It doesn't happen overnight.

Look at last week when Smith went out. Hood showed the potential, but bad habits crept in more often than not.

Hood's first play as the official and long term replacement for Smith resulted in a 12-yard Ricky Williams run. Why?

Well, Hood jumped inside to pursue Williams on the play side just about the time running back cut back to the gaping hole left open by the pursing Hood.

Give Hood credit, he realized that on the next play and made sure he didn't take himself out by being overzealous. Problem was that Williams ran right past him for eight more yards.

The next series?

Hood went to a quick swim move on a 2nd-and-five and Williams ran for four more yards.

With Hood replacing Smith, the Dolphins averaged a little more than four yards per carry. With Smith, Miami averaged 2.5 yards per carry.

Now, Hood's a very talented guy who just needs experience to overcome his biggest shortcoming. But as of right now, fans should accept the bad with the good. Because here's thinking that there's going to be plenty more of the former for a while.


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