Steelers Free Agent Focus: Drafting Ziggy Hood Should Neither Haunt Nor Make Pittsburgh Happy

The Super Bowl winner picks last in the NFL Draft, which means that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team to have that “honor” six times. They’ve used their pick on the likes of Dave Brown, Bennie Cunningham, Greg Hawthorne, Mark Malone, Santonio Holmes and most recently, Ziggy Hood.

How does Ziggy Hood fit in with the group above? Clearly, somewhere in the middle. Exactly where? The Steelers decision in free agency will tell us a lot about management’s answer to that question.

Capsule Profile of Ziggy Hood with the Steelers

The Steelers picked Hood with the 32nd pick in the 2009 NFL Draft – in other words, Hood would have been the fourth player taken in the second round had he come of age when Chuck Noll was still made the selections.

Hood didn’t play much as a rookie, and some in the press sought to make a big deal of that when Aaron Smith went down and the Steelers turned to Travis Kirschke instead of Hood. Hood got his snaps and helped the Steelers beat back the Ravens late in the season. Smith again would go down in 2010 and this time Hood assumed the starting role. His play was undistinguished until late in the season when he went on a tear, registering 3 sacks in the regular season’s final 3 games, as well as a sack in the playoffs vs. Baltimore and then again in Super Bowl XLV.

Hood seemed primed for a break out, but the breakout never came. While it’s unfair to say that Hood played “poorly” in 2011 and 2012, he did nothing to stand out. He began 2013 as a starter, but was displaced at mid-season by Cameron Heyward, and the Steelers have not looked back since.

The Case for Keeping Hood

The Steelers know what they have in Hood. A durable, predictable, solid but not spectacular 3-4 end. The rest of the NFL knows this and is not likely to throw a lot of money at Hood.

Clearly, you expect more from a first round pick, even a late one. But the Steelers have salary cap issues, and they can likely get Hood back at a very cap friendly contract. No real frills, but no real risks either.

The Case for Letting Hood Walk

The Steelers need to improve their front seven, and they cannot rely on or expect any real improvement from Hood. Hood is an average NFL starter. In that light it would be best for the Steelers to invest their time, roster spot and salary cap dollars elsewhere.

Curtain’s Call on Ziggy Hood

When judged alongside the other post Super Bowl picks Ziggy Hood is clearly above the Mark Malone and Greg Hawthorne’s of the world, but just as clearly below the Bennie Cunningham, Dave Brown, and Santoino Holmes of the world.

This middling tendency continues when judging Hood alongside other first round defensive lineman the Steelers have taken in the modern era, Hood pales in comparison to Joe Greene and Casey Hampton but is certainly a step above Keith Gary, Darryl Sims and Aaron Jones.

The tricky issue with Hood is that the Steelers cannot likely bring back both him and Brett Keisel, and they have no proven depth at defensive end. There’s been talk that Steve McLendon will move to defensive end – but that requires someone to take his place at nose tackle.

Hood can likely be had back at a cap-friendly contract, but that won’t do anything to improve the Steelers at this position of need. The smart money would be to let Hood test the market, see what defensive line talent can be acquired in the draft, and then bring him back or not if he’s still available.

Thanks for visiting. Click here for the rest of Steel Curtain Rising or here to see our Steelers 2014 Free Agent Focus.

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