Monday, July 27, 2009

METHINKS STEELERS HIT ANOTHER GUSHER IN EVANDER "ZIGGY" HOOD


ABOVE: Evander "Ziggy" Hood holds a recovered fumble aloft in front of his excited Missouri Tiger teammates. Hood plays a very intense style of football...sounds just right for the local team!

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"The one thing that stood out about him is he's willing to and capable of running to the football. He covers a lot of ground for a big man. It's unique for his position."-- Mike Tomlin

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While doing the research for this piece about recently-signed first round draft choice Ziggy Hood, I began getting this feeling that the Steelers may have struck oil once again with this pick. Not only is Hood a man-child at 6'2" and 300 pounds, even more importantly, he is one very intense football player, the kind that have "PROPERTY OF PITTSBURGH STEELERS" stamped all over them. He should feel right at home.

For example, his coach at Missouri, Gary Pinkel, called Hood, "The most tenacious player on the team". As credence to this is the fact that Hood was recognized as a leader and voted team captain. Hood is so engrossed in football, that according to one Missouri paper, he was on the sideline for every spring practice this spring before the NFL draft. According to Hood, he couldn't stand not being on a team, so until he was drafted, he had to continue being a part of the Tigers. Now that's intense.

Another interesting nugget that I dug up in the pre-draft news was that there were five teams that were interested enough in Hood to send in scouts for personal workouts: The Lions, Vikings, Chargers Patriots and Rams. Notice that the Steelers were not on that list...by design. They didn't get to become SuperBowl champs by unnecessarily tipping their hand. Several draft analysts said that Hood did extremely well in the Senior Bowl and that his stock was definitely on the rise. He was expected to become a late first round, early second round pick.

In looking over the Steelers preseason roster, I found that they will have eight first round draft choices on their roster this year. Evander "Ziggy" Hood (nicknamed by his grandfather) has all of the appearance of another long term successful pick. While terms of his deal were not immediately disclosed, the contract reportedly is for five years with $6 million guaranteed.

Hood will one day become the heir apparent to Casey Hampton and if Hampton comes to camp in the kind of shape he did last year, that matriculation date could be accelerated. While no one is expecting Casey Hampton to not be the starter, Hood having an opportunity to learn from their veteran line will only serve to make him better prepared (a la Lawrence Timmons) when his moment does arrive. Casey Hampton is in the final year of his contract by the way.

If there is any single thing that the Steelers stability does for them, it always allows their new players to learn their position first before being thrust into the fray. This is a tremendous advantage to have and helps to eliminate players learning lessons during games.

Of course that doesn't mean that we all won't be anxious to see Hood in action...in the preseason, but here's an interesting idea: Is there a possibility that he could play on special teams? Now that's a scary thought, a 300 pound man running full speed downfield on a kickoff. It might happen. With this guy you're soon going to learn not to be surprised by anything that he does. I'd love to see him busting up a wedge, wouldn't you?