Steelers' Hood finding his groove
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — For years, the Steelers relied on the old guard, a sentry of salty defensive linemen — Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith.
But time, age and injuries have ushered in a new era. The Steelers are transitioning, if reluctantly, to a younger defensive front.
In the past, the old guard would brush off talk of being replaced. Now they are accepting their roles as mentors to a young corps of linemen, including defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward and nose tackle Steve McLendon.
No one, it seems, learns faster than Hood.
Hood was clearly the most dominant linemen on either side of the ball as the Steelers thumped the Buffalo Bills, 38-7, at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Saturday night. The fourth-year lineman helped disrupt Buffalo's blocking schemes and forced quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Vince Young to flee the pocket.
“The longer I play, the more I can produce,” said Hood, who spent much of the offseason working on strength and conditioning. “I don't want to keep coming off the field to take a blow.”
Hood, with Keisel sidelined with a high left ankle sprain, didn't let up on the Bills. He was at full throttle from start to finish.
“Once we got comfortable, we played fast and comfortable,” McLendon said. “We pushed each other real hard, and Ziggy brought his A game like he has all preseason.”
Hood, though, wasn't nearly as impressed with his performance.
“It was far from my A game,” Hood said pointedly. “I still have a lot of things to clean up. It was an OK game for me.”
Hood was far more impressive than the stat sheet tally: three tackles, a fumble recovery, a pass defended and a quarterback hit. More importantly, Hood controlled the line of scrimmage by attracting two, sometimes three, blockers.
“That's what we do because we have to help each other out,” Hood said. “If we hold our point of attack, we can buy the cornerbacks a little more time to get their spots, and everything takes care of itself.”
Cornerback Ike Taylor said he doesn't pay attention to what goes on up front. Yet he admitted Hood and the defensive line made life relatively easy for the secondary, which surrendered only 192 yards passing as Fitzpatrick and Vince Young were a combined 19 of 44.
“We feel like when we are on the same page, all 11 guys, we are hard to stop,” Taylor said. “(Hood) made a couple of plays, and I think that helped turn things around.”
The shift in momentum came when safety Troy Polamalu intercepted Young. Then, rookie free-agent Robert Golden swiped a Young pass to set up a Byron Leftwich 10-yard touchdown pass to receiver Derrick Williams that gave the Steelers a 28-7 advantage.
“Basically, we were trying to get the QBs off their timing,” Hood said. “We don't have to get sacks, but we have to free up our linebackers and cornerbacks to make plays.”
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7923.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- New Steeler Boykin clarifies remarks about former coach
- After early criticism, Haley has Steelers offense poised to be even better
- Steelers swap draft pick for Eagles cornerback
- Ability to clog the trenches crucial to Steelers defense
- Steelers notebook: Injuries finally become issue at training camp
- Inside the Steelers: QB Jones continues to get majority of snaps
- Steelers notebook: Officials discuss new game ball procedures
- Inside The Steelers: LB Williams dominates backs-on-backers drill at Latrobe Memorial Stadium
- 2014 showing has Steelers RB Harris confident he belongs
- Steelers OLB coach Porter teaches as passionately as he played
- Steelers’ reserve quarterbacks vie to secure spot behind Roethlisberger, Gradkowski