By Matthew Marczi
Player: Ziggy Hood
Position: Defensive End
Experience: 5 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2013 Salary Cap Hit: $2,990,860
2013 Season Breakdown: Defensive end Ziggy Hood began his fifth season starting for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but ended it as a backup. In fact, he ended his fifth game of the season as a backup.
That’s usually not good when you’re talking about a former first-round draft pick, but the blow is somewhat softened when you consider that the move was made in order to give way to a 2011 former first-round draft pick in the form of Cameron Heyward.
If you take the metrics and evaluation of Pro Football Focus as gospel, then you believe that Hood, of course, had a terrible season, and in fact was the worst player on the team. That’s obviously not the case—or at least not the full picture.
Although he managed three sacks, it’s been no secret since he got here that Hood does not offer much in the way of pass rushing, which is the main reason he was supplanted by Heyward this year. The Steelers began the season rotating Heyward in with Hood during nickel situations to get a better pass rush, but the point became moot when the two were flip-flopped in the starting lineup.
Despite being very strong, Hood’s height disadvantage handicaps him when it comes to gaining leverage against a tall offensive tackle. This is something that has been a problem for him throughout his career, and saw only moderate improvement this year.
Still, Hood fared well for the most part playing against the run, a job made more difficult with a rookie Buck linebacker behind him and a rotation of outside linebackers to his side. Despite the demotion, in fact, Hood nearly matched his tackle total from the year before when he started every game and equaled his sack total, while gaining more pressures.
In addition, he also recovered a fumble, but he also inadvertently batted a ball forward against the Green Bay Packers, which not only negated a missed field goal, but gave possession back to the Packers, who scored a touchdown on the next play.
Free Agency Outlook: The market for an undersized, marginally productive 3-4 end with minimal pass rush ability that will command starter money is likely not great. The market for Hood could swell, however, if some 4-3 teams view him as an option at defensive tackle, going up against shorter interior linemen.
Because he is still rather young (only soon to be 27) and because Brett Keisel is already 35, with both in free agency, the Steelers may well opt for youth. Another factor other than age to consider is the fact that Hood has never missed a game in his five-year career, while Keisel has missed 12 in that same span, including four this season.
The Steelers know that Hood is capable of starting. He’s started 48 games for the team. But they also know he’s unspectacular, and it’s not clear how much higher his ceiling is, or if he’s already reached it. At the end of the day, Hood should only command a fair price that the Steelers can afford, so I expect him to be brought back, given that they likely won’t have much competition for his services.
Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Ryan Clark - Unrestricted Free Agent
Emmanuel Sanders - Unrestricted Free Agent
Brett Keisel - Unrestricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery - Unrestricted Free Agent