Ziggy Hood Has A Chance To Prove The Draft Choice Was The ‘Bust’, Not Himself

The term ‘bust’ has long loomed over the head of defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, the first-round draft pick (32nd overall) of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2009 NFL Draft, and not entirely without merit, though the term does get thrown about with reckless abandon, especially on the internet.

So much of a player’s future, however, is shaped by his surrounding and elements out of his control. For example, despite being a second-round draft pick Jason Worilds spent much of the first three years of his career behind two Pro Bow-caliber starters.

The ‘bust’ tag had been Worilds’ shadow for most of his career as well, and it wasn’t until his circumstances changed that he was finally able to shed that tag, which resulted in a nice pay day from the team that drafted him this offseason.

Hood was not afforded the same honor, having signed yesterday with the Jacksonville Jaguars instead. They were willing to set aside $16 million over four seasons to bring him in on a contract that included $5.5 million guaranteed.

One would have to figure that such a contract would have been too rich for the Steelers’ blood, both based on their financial picture and their view of Hood’s tenure on the field while with the team.

Why would the Jaguars be willing to commit such a salary for what has been for all intents and purposes an underwhelming former first-round draft pick? Is it simply because their organization doesn’t know what they’re doing?

The real answer is that he was largely miscast with the Steelers at a time during which the organization was beginning to prepare for life after Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel.

Ironically, with the departure of Hood, as well as Al Woods, they may have to call upon Keisel for one more season to bail them out of what is now a desperate depth crisis along the defensive front line.

Hood knew it, even when he was drafted, telling the Jaguars media upon the signing that “it seemed kind of odd” that a 3-4 team such as Pittsburgh would draft him. The rest of the quote is very revealing:

“I did my part and did my best trying to mold myself into what [the Steelers] wanted. I had a great five-year run there, and now it’s time to really put some work in at the 4-3.

“I wouldn’t say it wasn’t a perfect fit, because I’m a team player first. I’m going to do everything I can to help the team and if it worked out, it worked out. The skills they showed me, I can hopefully use that and bring that here.”

Hood played 4-3 defensive tackle in college. While many of them end up at defensive end once they hit the pro circuit, the vast majority of them conform to a more stereotypical body type, with a height near six-foot-six, and typically with longer arms.

In Hood’s case, his shorter, stockier frame, coupled with his 33” arm length, forced him to face a constant uphill battle from a physique standpoint, but he did his best to counter it in the weight room.

As a 3-4 defensive end, Hood found himself lined up against mammoth offensive tackles on a down-to-down basis, whereas in college, he was more used to facing off with interior blockers that better suited his body type. This made it more difficult for him, for example, to shed blocks, even when his technique was solid.

No, Hood was never necessarily a technician, but it is something that he gradually addressed throughout his time in Pittsburgh. It was a point of emphasis in his offseason training in 2013, which may very well have been his best season from a fundamental standpoint.

The truth of the matter is, however, that no matter how strong he got, or how much he improved his technique, he was always going to be at a disadvantage. Not everybody can play the position with a physical disadvantage the way Chris Hoke did.

But Hood never complained. In fact, he is one of the players that always has a smile on his face. Hood’s words to the media said a lot about his character. He truly has been a team player, and worked about as hard as anybody else to get better.

He now joins a revamped Jaguars front line that includes former Seattle Seahawks Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, as well as Jason Babin. It’s a fresh start, a second chance, and an opportunity to prove that the only thing that was a ‘bust’ about his career up until now was the scheme in which he was placed.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Shawn S.

    One of the best articles I’ve read on this site. I have admitted Hood’s work ethic and attitude, and I admire his character even more now that I read his quotes as a Jag. You’ve explained real well here why the Steelers were not a good fit for him, scheme-wise. Well see how he does as a Jaguar. Even if he excels, no one will probably know because they will be a basement dweller for a while.

  • Steelers12328882

    So, he wasn’t a good fit for us. Ok, well then who the heck is responsible for wasting a 1st rd. pick on a guy that would always be at a disadvantage in our defense? That’s just crazy! I always liked Hood. Sounds like he’s excited to get back in a 4-3.

  • steeltown

    Wish him well… they don’t really have much offensively down there in JAX but that Defense is going to be much improved with all of the recent signings

  • Jason White

    Well we will get to see Hood this year as we play the AFC South.

  • grw1960

    Many said Ziggy was a better fit in a 4-3 and were surprise the Steelers picked him.
    But has since been deemed to be a poor draft class for late 1st through 2nd round type talents.
    In the next 15 or so picks after Ziggy that year, only FS Delmas & CB Byrd have been quality starters.

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    The same could happened to Worilds, it took an injury to place him where he really is effective, so who is evaluating talent?

  • Babybull

    K Colbert he been bad since he came over from lion they bring FA in just to keep people thinking their trying to sign them you give a guy with 13 starts 25 mill what. A joke but you don’t have a pass rush come on does that make sense don’t matter whose back there if you don’t get to QB but we made sure we have long snapper plus a love Big Ben but why aren’t the QBs ask to take pay cut sometime they make 100 mill an we been 8/8 last two years guys making least amount always taking cuts that’s why we can’t field good team QBs overpaid

  • michael young

    I appreciated his work ethic and professionalism during his tenure our Steelers. It really was a puzzling draft choice at the time. It was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with him. He may turn out to be much more productive in a 4-3 which was, is and will be his more natural defensive front. This wasn’t a talent miss as much as a scheme fit miss. We can’t afford another one of these. I can understand it when assessing 4-3 ends in college and the transition to outside backer in a 3-4 in the pros. So much work needs to be done. Not so much with filling the defensive line though.

  • Toddy Bravo

    With all due respect, that’s really a short-sighted way to look at things. The contract Mike Mitchell got is average for a FS of his caliber. He has limited starts, but those starts mostly came last year, which turned out to be a very impressive year for him, far better than Ryan Clark had. Mitchell is a player on the rise, so I think it’s a great signing at great value.

    Also, I believe Ben has restructured his contract in the past, but hasn’t taken a pay cut because the FO hasn’t asked him to do so, and why would they? He’s still an elite, franchise QB. You ask players to take pay cuts who are underperforming and/or on the downside of their careers. That’s clearly not the case with Ben…yet. Take a look at teams trying to win a SB in this league without a franchise QB and you may start to appreciate the value of #7. He’s worth every penny.

  • CrazyTerry

    Colbert had a great run in the first half of the 2000s. For that, I will be grateful. But to put it kindly, he has been a mediocre GM for the last half decade. He and Khan have undone most of the good work done in the early 2000s.

  • dennisdoubleday

    Ha, ha, Babybull, that’s right, Colbert was really bad at evaluating talent in the first decade of the 21st century. If he had done his job, we might have gone to more than 3 SBs and 5 AFC championships in the decade.

  • dennisdoubleday

    You think maybe picking at the end of the round almost every year might have had something to do with the dropoff??

  • shawn

    I wish him the Best … he has been 1st class all the way, love his attitude character and professionalism … he has gotten a lot of undue trashing on this site and I hope he can turn his career around as he is somebody that surely deserves it !

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    At this point, recognizing that (for whatever reason) he didn’t work out here, I’m inclined to wish him good luck. The part that caught my eye was ‘tried to mold myself into what the Steelers wanted’. That could just be a coy move on his part (‘it wasn’t me, it was the system’) or it could be taken as a guy recognizing that he was a fish out of water but would do his best, which is admirable.
    My question – if he was in the wrong system and thought he was better suited for a 4-3, why didn’t he speak up and ask to be released a la Vince Wolfork?

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    That has to be the longest continuous run-on sentence I have ever seen on a website.

  • Chad H

    What, you aren’t making sense.

  • Matthew Marczi

    As you said about the weaker than average top portion of the draft, I believe that contributed to the Steelers’ decision to take the chance on Hood at that point, since they were desperate to get somebody in the pipeline to take over for Smith already.