Watch Tower: Ziggy Hood Is Not Ready to Start Yet. So What?

Let’s quickly recap how two of Pittsburgh’s top journalists are covering the Steeler’s plans for life in the 2009 season without Aaron Smith:

DJSWSP: …How has [Ziggy Hood] looked so far?
Ed Bouchette: Not good enough, apparently, to replace the injured Aaron Smith as the starter this week. That should be troubling for a first-round draft pick.
– Ed Bouchette’s weekly
, (emphasis added.)

What is most disturbing about the news on Smith is that No. 1 draft choice Ziggy Hood isn’t ready to take over. That’s a bit of a sad commentary on a top draft choice. He was selected without the expectation of having to make an early contribution. But now that the opportunity has come, it’s unsettling that coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t feel he’s ready for it.
– Bob Smizik, Post-Gazette
(emphasiss added.)

Aaron Smith goes down and Ziggy Hood isn’t ready to fill his shoes – the sky is falling, the sky is falling, it hit me on the head!

Or at least that is the conclusion one might draw based on the commentary offered by the Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette and Bob Smizik.

The Steelers will absolutely miss Aaron Smith, make no mistake about it. In an ideal world, Ziggy Hood could slide right in to his slot, and the Steelers would never miss a beat on the way to Hood winning AFC Rookie of the Year.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, and Hood will not start on Sunday. And you know what?

Steelers Nation in fact has no reason to panic because Hood is not starter-ready six games into his rookie season.

History of Steelers First Round Picks As a Guide

It took Casey Hampton five games to wrestling the starting Nose Tackle job from Kendrick Clancy, but Hampton came from a bigger school and was drafted higher.

Kendall Simmons, Heath Miller, and Ben Roethlisberger not only started the bulk of their rookie seasons, but made significant impacts, which reflects very well on all three men.

But what about Super Bowl XVIII MVP Santonio Holmes? He only started four games as a rookie. Lawrence Timmons? None. 2008’s first round pick Rasshard Mendenhall, he got one start then got his collarbone broken by Ray Lewis and was lost for the year.

And of course, what about the player whom the Steelers have missed the most thus far in the 2009 campaign? Unable to move past the likes of Brett Alexander and Mike Logan, Troy Polamalu did not start a single game as rookie.

Ziggy Hood might turn out to be a bust. He could also be the second coming of Dwight White. No one knows at this point, but the fact that Tomlin isn’t ready to start him shouldn’t become cause for worry.

Alternative Explanation

Before anyone comes down too hard on Bouchette and Smizik for prematurely hitting the panic button on Ziggy Hood, it is important to pay respect to the journalistic process.

Ed Bouchette observes Steelers practices, but by agreement he is limited on what he can report. That’s why you never see a reporter print something like “well, they kept trying gadget plays in practice all week, but they only got the flea flicker to work, so don’t expect to see anything else.”

Stuff does slip out, such as Limas Sweed’s repeated drops, but usually only after it becomes so obvious that reporters are not giving anything away.

So given that, it is possible that he knows Ziggy Hood hasn’t looked good in practice and since Bouchette can’t say it directly, this is his way of saying it indirectly. Time will tell.

  • Curtain’s Call: It is simply too early for anyone to make judgments on Ziggy Hood’s development. Mike Tomlin’s using the luxury he has of having veteran backups to bring Hood along at a deliberate pace. After 5 or 6 games, we’ll all know a little more.

Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower casts a critical eye on press coverage of the Steelers. Click here (and scroll down) to read more from the Watch Tower.

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