When the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line takes the field Monday night in the team’s 2016 regular season opener against the Washington Redskins, four of those players surely won’t have to introduce themselves to one of the defensive ends on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
In case you haven’t heard by now, former Steelers first-round draft pick Ziggy Hood is expected to start at left defensive end Monday night for the Redskins after winning the job during training camp.
“Once we got the pads on him was really when he stood out,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said of Hood recently, according to Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press. “The 1-on-1 drills, the team drills, he was in the backfield being very disruptive. It was a consistent thing. It wasn’t like one day he did well and the next day he didn’t do anything. He was consistently a nuisance and a problem for our offense.”
Hood, who signed a futures contract with the Redskins this past February, last started a game in the NFL in 2013 as a member of the Steelers. Since being allowed to leave Pittsburgh as an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of that season, Hood has since played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears.
Just over one full year ago, Hood tore the plantar fascia in his left foot during the Jaguars preseason finale and while he quickly overcame that injury after being placed on Jacksonville’s Reserve/Injured list, he couldn’t manage to stick with Bears, who had quickly signed him following his October release from the team that had signed him to a four-year contract in March of 2014.
“I never really had to deal with an injury that serious before,” Hood said nearly a month ago, according to Anthony Gulizia of The Washington Times. “They told me I wasn’t going to be doing anything for eight or nine weeks. I was squatting 315 [pounds] at three weeks. I’m Texas Tough. That’s how we’re born and raised.”
While Hood failed to receive a second contract in Pittsburgh, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin still speaks very highly of the defensive end.
“Ziggy was always a hard-working professional, so it’s no surprise to me that he’s still sustaining himself and being helpful to a football team,” Tomlin said on a conference call Wednesday. “He’s always had a good natural get-off. He’s always working at his craft. He realizes that as a professional, detail is an element of it, and when he was with us that was always his approach to getting better.”
Monday night in Washington, expect the Steelers to try and run right at Hood early and often during the game with guard David DeCastro likely leading the way. DeCastro, who like Hood was also drafted in the first round by the Steelers, should know Hood very well being as the two practiced against one another for two years in Pittsburgh.
Hood enters the Monday night game against his former team with 12.5 career sacks and only one of them was registered since he left Pittsburgh. In short, while Hood should be applauded for being able to rejuvenate his career after so many thought he was done, the Steelers offensive line will be expected to keep his impact on Monday night’s game at a minimum.