Three weeks from today the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field in the season opener and come that time the team will no longer talk contracts until the season is over. As it stands right now, the team only has three of their six defensive lineman who figure to make the 2013 roster under contract for 2014, and two of those three players play nose tackle.
Defensive end Ziggy Hood, the Steelers first-round draft pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, and veteran Brett Keisel are both currently pegged as the starters for 2013, but neither is under contract for 2014. Behind both sit Cameron Heyward and Al Woods, but even Woods will be a free agent following the season.
Being as Keisel will turn 36 just after the start of the 2014 season, you would think the Steelers will wait and see how he holds up in 2013 before trying to re-sign him to a one-year deal next offseason. That leaves both Hood and Woods as the only two candidates for an extension between now and the start of the regular season.
As well as Woods played in the preseason opener last week against the New York Giants; it is important to remember that was just one practice game and that the former fourth-round draft pick has only played 188 defensive snaps since being drafted by the New Orleans Saints. Could he receive a modest extension? I suppose it\'s possible, but modest is the key word as far as that goes.
So this leaves us with Hood, who told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently that he\'s not bothered about his contract situation.
"I\'m not worried about the contract or anything like that," Hood told Bouchette. "Because if I do what I\'m capable of doing, everything will work out. If I\'m worried about it, then I\'m not focusing on what I have to do and that\'s to help this team win."
In my opinion, Hood really doesn\'t have anything to worry about as the Steelers simply don\'t have anyone to turn to next season. Sure, they drafted Nick Williams in the seventh round this past April, but it would be a minor miracle for him to be ready to start in 2014.
The Steelers could decide to shift Steve McLendon over to left defensive end in 2014, but that only happens if they are fully confident that Alameda Ta\'amu can be the starter at nose tackle. With just 21 days left until the start of the regular season, I\'m not sure they really know what they have in the Washington product.
General manager Kevin Colbert talked about extensions again late last week and while he said there weren\'t any negotiations with players currently taking place, he did hint that extension talks could begin with a few players and their agents following the Monday night game against the Washington Redskins. I fully expect Hood to be one of those players and will be surprised if he doesn\'t have a new deal in place by the start of the regular season.