Steelers' Tomlin addresses weighty issue
As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin delivered a not-so-subtle conditioning message to his players at the end of voluntary practices last week, one of his intended targets was nose tackle Casey Hampton, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that Tomlin also praised defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, the team's first-round pick.
At the start of training camp last year, Tomlin held Hampton out for the first week, when he failed to complete a conditioning run. When asked if Hampton is in better shape this year, Tomlin didn't exactly give Hampton a ringing endorsement.
"I'm always in a wait-and-see position (with Hampton)," Tomlin said.
When it came to Hood, a 4-3 defensive tackle at Missouri who is learning to play 3-4 defensive end, Tomlin had plenty of good things to say.
"The one thing that stands out about (Hood) is him running to the football," Tomlin said. "He covers a lot of ground for a big man. It's unique for his position.''
According to Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell, end is more difficult to learn than nose tackle.
Hood, though, has an advantage in that he is a natural one-gap defensive tackle, the type the coaching staff prefers (Hampton is a natural two-gap.).
One-gap nose tackles are counted on to attack and shoot the gap between the center and guard and make plays in the backfield. Two-gap nose tackles are expected to read and tie-up multiple offensive linemen, thereby allowing linebackers to make plays.
Perhaps Tomlin's comments regarding Hampton's conditioning is a signal that Hood could receive playing time at nose tackle early in his rookie year.
Also, the Steelers have veteran backup Chris Hoke, who started three games last season, when Hampton was injured, and rookie Ra'Shon Harris, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon.
For the moment, at least, Hood will play outside.
"I just know defensive end right now," Hood said. "That's what I'm working on. My goal is to focus on my job, not on anything else. If they move me to nose tackle, I'll have to pick up even more. With me playing end, I kind of know what the nose is doing.
"I've got great teachers, especially with Hoke and Big Hamp. With those guys teaching me, I'll be able to adjust to anything.
"I'll just have to be able to put more weight on, plus become a better player at that position if they decide to move me. Not to say I'm going to develop as much as Casey, but I'll probably be a little quicker. Maybe on passing downs, I can come in and aid them a little bit."
Like Tomlin, Mitchell addressed Hampton's conditioning issues after the Steelers drafted Hood in the first round.
"Casey, I think he was embarrassed when he came back (to training camp last summer) with the weight situation," Mitchell said.
If Tomlin doesn't think Hampton's conditioning is where it needs to be at camp, Mitchell sounded like he believes Hood - the first defensive lineman taken by the Steelers in the first round since Hampton in 2001 - can play defensive end and nose tackle.
"He is not going to have any problem learning our scheme because we ask our defensive ends to do a lot," Mitchell said. "It is easy to play nose tackle because we do a lot of things with them, but it is simple."
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.
- For Steelers, a fight to finish for playoff berth
- Rossi: As Blount walked, Porter called
- Play of nose tackles could have impact on Steelers’ stretch run
- Cut by Steelers, LeGarrette Blount joins Patriots
- Steelers’ Wheaton embraces expanding role
- Steelers Film Session: Sticking with what works
- Steelers notebook: Gay, secondary brace for Saints QB Brees
- Steelers cut ties with running back Blount after incident in Tennessee
- Lack of experienced backup means more work for Steelers RB Bell
- Workhorse role suits Steelers running back Bell
- Steelers’ Mitchell banned from social media