Is ‘Ziggy’ Hood a good pick?
Yes — if he can make a play

          Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009

Was Evander "Ziggy" Hood a good pick for the Steelers?

It comes down to this: Can he make a play at crunch time?

If he can, he's a great pick.

If he can't, he's at best a mediocre pick, perhaps a bust.

Teams should always build through the draft, and position need is usually part of the equation.

But need is overrated. Weak spots are shored up not by reaching for draft picks or washed-up free agents, but by putting superior players elsewhere on the field.

In other words, if Hood can sack the quarterback 10 times next season, that will more than account for any deficiencies in the game of William Gay.

The phrase "need to get younger on the defensive line" has been pounded into Steelers' fans heads all weekend by the Pittsburgh media, Ed Bouchette, Scott Brown, John Harris, Ron Cook, etc.

This misses the point of the pick.

If Hood is only a borderline starter, it's a bad pick. Particularly if two other players widely thought to be eyed by the Steelers, Brian Robiskie and/or Max Unger, are Pro Bowl players.

The scouting report? Initial impression is positive. Seems very similar to the Casey Hampton pick, only smaller and not drafted to play nose tackle. His video highlights on the draft coverage looked superior to, for example, Fili Moala.

Where is skeptical is in late-first-round DLs. Last year some wanted Kentwan Balmer, who went to San Francisco and to our knowledge did nothing last year, zero sacks. Lawrence Jackson had 2 sacks for Seattle. Others that come to mind include Marcus Tubbs, John McCargo, William Joseph and guys that dropped like Alan Branch and Dre Moore (thought to be a Steelers option).

On the plus side, there is Luis Castillo (Chargers) and Mike Patterson (Eagles), 2005. Castillo fell though because of a performance-enhancing-drug issue.

One thing to keep in mind is that two centers were drafted ahead of Hood. Those are good center prospects, but it is unusual for an elite defensive line prospect (regarded as both 3-4 and 4-3 capable) to be drafted after two centers.

The motor is top-notch, and that is important. But that was also the case for Mark Bruener. Once Bruener bulked up to NFL size, he couldn't catch a thing. According to this scouting report at, Hood "has this nasty habit of popping up at the snap, leaving his chest exposed for the physical block." It also says he "lacks the elite explosiveness or strength usually associated with highly rated defensive tackles," and "often plays too high and loses leverage."

Hood seems most valuable to the Steelers as an inside rush end on passing downs. If he can get to the quarterback and maybe occasionally cause a fumble, then he'll figure out how to stop the run, and he'll find himself on the field often in 2009. If he can't get to the QB, we've got a space-filler who's probably better than Orien Harris and Ryan McBean, not much more.

One problem with the Steelers of the 1970s is that, after the Super Bowl wins, a few toys were drafted, namely Greg Hawthorne and Mark Malone. Hood is nothing like those massive boom/bust choices. But then again, this is also not like the post-2005 Super Bowl pick, when the team aggressively traded up for Santonio Holmes.

Hood is a guy the team was happy to settle for, but apparently not interested in trading up for with Indianapolis and (slightly) Tennessee possibilities.

The Steelers do not need "youth" on the defensive line. They need players who make big plays and win football games.

If Hood can do that — and only if Hood can do that — this pick will be a success.

How did Evander Hood get the nickname "Ziggy"? According to Scott Brown of the Tribune-Review, his grandmother gave him the nickname because she liked the Ziggy comic strip.

          © 2009,

Steelers/NFL sites