The annual Willie Colon move to guard talk is back in high swing and so you knew the annual Ziggy Hood move to nose tackle talk would not be far behind it. It is more talked about this offseason it seems being as Casey Hampton has a strong possibility of starting the year on the PUP list as he recovers from his knee surgery.
Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin was asked on Tuesday about the possibility of Hood playing nose tackle and he replied, "Hood is potentially part of that. He is a very talented and strong guy, but I think Steve McLendon proved that he is a capable backup a year ago, and in some instances a starter. He played a lot of football for us, so we are not in any way discouraged by his progress or what he might continue to evolve into. In terms of the long scenario of Casey Hampton not being there, I am not of that mentality. We are gearing ourselves for 2012. I am singularly focused in that regard. He is going to be a part of it."
The jury is still out on McLendon right now, but most of the fears associated with him are because of his weight it seems. People tend to look at his listed weight of 280 pounds as a reason why he can\'t succeed, but as Jim Wexell has tried to point out several times, McLendon is over 300 pounds. The inconsistencies that we have seen with McLendon come from his lack of reps in my honest opinion. Keep in mind that he has yet to play 250 snaps on the defensive side of the ball as yet and he is still learning the nuances of the position.
In my opinion McLendon he is already a better two gap defensive lineman than Hood is and this was the knock on Hood when he came out of college as well. He played defensive tackle at Missouri and excelled more as a three and four technique defensive lineman in their 4-3 system. That is why he was projected as a 3-4 defensive end at the NFL level. His strength to this date is one gap responsibilities in the three and five technique, with the three being the better of the two.
Can Hood play the nose? In emergency situations I suppose so and I think that was what Tomlin was alluding to in his response by using the word, potentially. I do not think Tomlin regards Hood as a better option there than McLendon right now and I think they will try to ride McLendon until Hampton is ready to return. I had Chris Hoke on the podcast right after he retired and asked him specifically if he thought Hood could play the nose in 2012 and he told me, "I can\'t see him playing nose. I mean he does that, he\'s an emergency guy. He\'ll take snaps when we started getting down in numbers, like when Casey and I were getting hurt and he took some snaps there in practice, but I don\'t see Ziggy playing nose on a consistent basis. I see Ziggy playing the three, the four and the five like he\'s been doing very, very well the last two years and I don\'t see that happening."
Now of course Hoke is not on the Steelers coaching staff, but he certainly is in tune with what is going on with the current talent on the roster. In short he said that in emergency situations that Hood indeed could be forced to take some snaps there and I see that as what Tomlin was insinuating as well. Hoke figures to be in the college coaching ranks down the line now that he his retired and I really trust his opinion. His response was in no way a knock on Hood either as he merely stating that he is much better suited for the three, four and five technique role.
Now is McLendon the long term answer at nose tackle? I don\'t think so, but I think he is a player that could serve as a short term answer until the successor of Hampton is groomed. The Steelers will almost certainly draft a nose tackle in the first four rounds of the upcoming draft and whoever that ends up being could certainly see playing time in his rookie season much like Hampton did many moons ago. It all depends of course on how fast that player progresses.
So will Hood see a few snaps at nose tackle in 2012? I wouldn\'t rule out him getting a series or two here and there, but I do not think the Steelers want to make a habit out of doing that. That is by far not his best positional fit on the defensive line.