Steelers Defensive End takes a lot of heat for his performance in the Steelers defense. He gets compared to Aaron Smith and no one likes the fact that he does not put up the numbers that Smith put up. Hood is not Smith and nor will he ever be. Smith was the perfect 5 tech defensive end. He ate up blockers and still made his way to the QB. The man had an outstanding all around game. He is a once in a generation player. Smith is the best 3-4 defensive end of his era. You can not be mad at Hood for not being that guy.
While Hood is not Smith he has played above average as defensive end. He is just now finishing his third year in the position. He had to transition to the position and we have all heard over and over how people need 3 years to be comfortable. Hood seemed to get comfortable this season. He may have made fewer plays for the team but he also took up more blockers. He made holes for his teammates and gave them the ability to make plays. He opened up to the fact that his role is not to be the splash player.
Hood did not get to start right away. Aaron Smith was the starter at the beginning of last season. Smith while a legend was one of the reasons that the defense struggled early. Smith was being pushed all over the field. His age and his injuries held him back. Smith was not the same guy that he used to be. Smith was allowed to stay in even though he was not effective. Hood would have spent the entire year on the bench if Smith would not have been injured. The Steelers defense would have struggled right a long with him.
With Hood taking to his role different aspects of the Steelers defense improved. Hood’s strength helped the Steelers run defense improve. The Steelers were giving up 4.78 yards per carry and 119.5 yards per game with Smith in to 3.74 yards per carry and 93.25 yards per game. That is over 1 yard less per rush once Hood entered the game. That yards per game average would have given the Steelers the 3rd best rush defense in the NFL.
The Steelers also gave up 2 100 yard rushers in the first four games. In the last 12 they only gave up one. That was in a blow out win over the Rams. Stephen Jackson worked his way over 100 yards in that game. The defense really improved against the run with Hood on the field. Smith just could not hold up anymore. It was sad but it was easy to see.
Another person who can attest to Hood’s on field play was LaMarr Woodley. Woodley started off the season slow in the statistical categories. In the first four games Woodley only had 1.5 sacks. He was spending much of his time working against the run before being able to pass rush. He was covering for Smith. He was unable to play his true game. He could not really rush the passer the way he wanted to. He had to make sure it was not a run before he could head towards the QB. It caused him to struggle.
When Hood came in the game Woodley had a player that he knew could hold up against the run. It gave Woodley the ability to do what he does best. Crush the quarterback. Before his injury Woodley played 4 games with Hood. During that time Woodley had 7.5 sacks. He had at least 1.5 in each game. Woodley was a ball of fire. He was a different player when Hood was in the game. Woodley was on the way to a possible Defensive Player of the Year before he got hurt.
So while Hood may not be the best 5 tech in the league. He may not be Aaron Smith. His value is being taken for granted. Hood can play and he is doing his job. He is making it easy for others to make plays. He will continue to progress and we will be better for it.