Last year at about this time, we were tracking the conditioning of Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood as he was transforming his body in an attempt to get stronger while trimming his body fat in the process. This offseason, however, Hood\'s main focus is transforming his technique, specifically his hand placement and his footwork.
"If your hand placement and your footwork isn\'t good, you aren\'t going to be in the correct position to make a play," Hood said, per a Friday evening report by Mark Kaboly of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Small things like that will always get you in the right place. It may not get you there all the time, but you will be there more often than not."
Knowing that Hood is having to work on more on his technique this offseason is not a surprise; however, as Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said as much when he talked to the media during the 2013 NFL Draft back in April.
"Ziggy Hood has some technical stuff that John (Mitchell) has to work with him on. And John knows about that so we’re going to try to get those things clarified and work that out and hopefully we’ll be good against the run," said Butler when asked if he was starting to worry about the run defense due to the loss of some key players this offseason.
Hood was credited with a career high 42 total tackles in 2012, but when you dig deeper inside his stats, you will find that his stop percentage against the run is where he is very below average. According to Pro Football Focus, Hood registered a 5.0 stop percentage in 2012, which ranked him 18th overall when measured against 19 other 3-4 defensive ends in the league that played 211 snaps or more against the run.
However, despite the poor stop numbers, the Steelers defense still managed to finish second in the league in rushing yards allowed per game and fourth overall in rushing yards allowed per play. While Hood isn\'t where he should be at this stage of his career, he did show some progress last season in his first full year as a starter.
"Last year was a good step for me," said Hood, per the Kaboly report. "It wasn\'t the season that I would say was the best, but the positives outweighed the negatives."
2013 is a very important season for the Hood as the Steelers 2009 first-round draft pick out of Missouri is entering the final year of his rookie contract. However, as I pointed out in a previous post, the Steelers might have not have a choice but to extend Hood prior to the start of the season due to the fact they have no experienced depth behind him and fellow defensive ends Brett Keisel and Cameron Heyward. Hood, however, according to the Kaboly report, isn\'t worried about his contract situation.
"My contract is the last thing on my mind," Hood said. "The only thing on my mind is getting better each and every day."