With the first OTA session of the 2013 season out of the way for the Pittsburgh Steelers, defensive end Ziggy Hood decided to go back home to Amarillo, Texas for the weekend and Terrence Hunley of the Amarillo Globe-News caught up with him after he was presented an award for donations that he made to the local Khiva Shrine Center.
Hood, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, was asked if that fact makes it an even bigger year for him in 2013.
"I try not to get into all that," said Hood, the Steelers first-round draft pick in the 2009 draft. "Every year is a big year. The main thing is to stay healthy, stay focused, let God do the work, and I handle the rest. I just want to go out there and do whatever I can for the team."
Hood\'s time in Pittsburgh has of course allowed him to be coached by Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and he was asked what it\'s like to play for the Hall of Famer.
"He’s a cool cat," said Hood. "He’s not yelling. All he does is try to make you better. He demands perfection, but without saying anything. That just makes you want to work harder for the guy. I love the man."
At the end of the interview, Hood was asked to reveal the toughest quarterback that he\'s played against in the NFL and his answer was a surprising one.
"It would probably have to be Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco," said Hood. "He won the Super Bowl this year. We’ve got to improve ourselves against him twice a year. We’ve got to do whatever we can to prepare for him and get ready for him this season and get where we need to be."
Although Hood wouldn\'t admit it, 2013 is a very important year for him with it being a contract year. In addition, the Steelers ability to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks with their front five has been lacking for the last two seasons and that definitely needs to improve this upcoming season. Hood, however, played pretty good as a whole last season against the run and it led to him registering a career high in total tackles with 42 of them.
There has been some talk this off-season that third-year defensive end Cameron Heyward could possibly push Hood for the starting left defensive end job this year in training camp, but as I posted recently, I don\'t see that happening. As far as his contract situation goes, I think there\'s a chance that Hood could get an extension prior to the start of the season, as the Steelers really have no depth behind him when you look ahead to 2014.
As far as the Steelers disappointing 8-8 record last season, Hood pointed to the obvious generic answer of mistakes and close games as reasons why.
"We hope to learn from our mistakes and not repeat what we did last year," Hood told Hunley. "Last year was a disappointing season. We saw what we did wrong. There were four or five games that we lost by three points and it easily could have been different if we would have won one or two of those. That’s just the way it goes. This year we are trying not to repeat the same thing and keep improving."