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Old 08-16-2009, 06:50 AM   #1
Galax Steeler
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Default Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

While the rest of his defensive linemates were being carted to the cafeteria for lunch, Ziggy Hood and the other rookies, Sonny Harris and Steve McLendon, were still in the meeting room, getting their moves, technique and perhaps their dignity stripped to the core by defensive line coach John Mitchell.

It is Mitchell's job, some say his passion, to take all rookie linemen, throw away everything they have learned from any previous regime, and teach them the way he wants Steelers linemen to perform. Stand low. Stay square. Maintain pad level. Use your hands.

"If you don't stop your old habits, he'll keep breaking you down," said backup nose tackle Chris Hoke. "He does a good job of making you do it the Steelers' way, the way we play here. It's hard sometimes because you've been doing those old habits for a long time. But he'll break down their old habits."

Mitchell is the ultimate restoration mechanic: He takes apart the engine, strips away all the grime and builds it back to his desired performance. He did it with Hoke and Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel -- all mid- to low-round draft picks -- and he is doing it with Hood, even though the 6-foot-4, 305-pound rookie is a No. 1 draft choice.

"That's what I try to do," said Mitchell, who begins his 16th season as defensive line coach, the longest-tenured member of the Steelers' coaching staff. "I try to make them understand what they did where they came from was great, but it's a different concept here, and you got to buy into that. I work real hard to get guys to do that."

Apparently, he does not have to do it too hard with Hood.

Not only has he been a standout through two weeks of training camp, he stood out in the preseason opener Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals, registering a sack and beating a double-team block to hurry Cardinals quarterback Brian St. Pierre into a throw that was intercepted and returned 42 yards by rookie cornerback Joe Burnett.

Hood has been doing that almost since the first of camp, and it has not surprised Mitchell, who is a tough critic.

"I thought Ziggy played really well," Mitchell said. "There are a lot of things he has to do on this level to become the type of player he wants to be. This was his first professional game, and I think he reverted back to some of the things he did in college, but that's to be expected. I told [defensive coordinator] Dick [LeBeau] and [coach] Mike [Tomlin], for the group I have, they're farther along than any group I've had."

He was referring to Harris, a sixth-round draft choice from Oregon; and McLendon, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound free agent from Troy. And, of course, Hood.

The Steelers have been unable to re-stock their defensive line with young players, despite drafting players such as Ryan McBean (2007) and Orien Harris (2006) in the fourth round and Shaun Nua (2005) and Eric Taylor (2004) in the seventh round. That's part of the reason why the youngest player on the line is backup Nick Eason (29), who joined the team in free agency in 2007.

Hood is the first defensive lineman taken in the first round since nose tackle Casey Hampton in 2001 and the first defensive end since Aaron Jones in 1988.

"The thing I like about all three of them is, combined, they played about 80 plays [against Arizona] and only had two mental errors," Mitchell said. "You get three guys playing that many plays as first-time guys in the NFL, I was really pleased. All three are so further along than any group I've ever had here, and this is my 16th year here."

Hood in particular.

Not only is he developing faster than expected, he showed he can use his hands inside to get off blocks and run to the ball -- something Mitchell stresses. That is what he did when he beat the double-team and pressured St. Pierre into the errant throw.

"I saw some good things, I saw some good pressure," Hood said. "I need to stop thinking so much and start going out and playing ball."

None of his teammates thought he looked tentative in his first outing.

"He's ahead of anybody I've seen coming in," said Smith, who begins his 11th season. "He's a talented kid. He's a smart kid. He understands it more than the rest of us did as a rookie. I would have cut me my rookie year."

Then Smith added, "There's a reason he's a first-rounder. Usually, a first-rounder is the complete package. He's a big, strong kid who works hard. He is the complete package."

Or will be, once Mitchell is done with him.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09228/991207-66.stm
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Old 08-16-2009, 07:20 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

Nice Post

Thanks for sharing
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Old 08-16-2009, 07:32 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

Hood may play more this year that I thought he would. Its nice to hear that the others are looking good as well.
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Old 08-16-2009, 07:50 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

What an awesome read! I think we all knew going into TC that Ziggy was going to be a standout, work very hard and earn the respect of his coaches and teammates. FEAR DA ZIG!

Seems we never hear much about John Mitchell and what an excellent job he has done with our DL. It was good to read about him, how hard he pushes his players and the praise he has for "his youngins"!
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Old 08-16-2009, 07:51 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

I hope Harris and McLendon develop better than some of our more recent (later round) picks. It's tough refortifying an aging line with late picks year after year.
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Old 08-16-2009, 07:56 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

I look for Harris to make the squad also...
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Old 08-16-2009, 08:07 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

Great read Galax! I liked what I saw out of our young D-line the other night, Hood looked good and I liked what I saw out of Harris as he got a great push on the Cards' O-line. I hope these guys develop into solid starters. With a coach like Mitchell I think they will.
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Old 08-16-2009, 08:30 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

When asked about his plans for his rookie signing bonus, Ziggy replied

"Buy a better folder for my playbook"


Got to love a guy like that!
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Old 08-16-2009, 08:46 AM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

I watched the game some more last night and have to say that I was really impressed with the way Sonny Harris pushed the pocket in passing situations.

Harris looked to be more of a physical force than Hood, but Hood seemed to make contact and then "get skinny" to slip thru gaps. I think Sonny Harris is gonna be a nice late round find as a 3-4 DE.
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Old 08-16-2009, 08:58 AM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers defensive line coach finding few dents in Hood

Quote:
Originally Posted by El-Gonzo Jackson View Post
I watched the game some more last night and have to say that I was really impressed with the way Sonny Harris pushed the pocket in passing situations.

Harris looked to be more of a physical force than Hood, but Hood seemed to make contact and then "get skinny" to slip thru gaps. I think Sonny Harris is gonna be a nice late round find as a 3-4 DE.
MAN!!..I love to hear that.

Harris wasnt even on my radar as a late round DE. If he pans out and can become even a very good rotation DE I will be very happy.

I know they said Ra'shon Harris on draft day...but in my mind I kept thinking "Oh boy, another Orion Harris"!!!

Couldnt be more thrilled to hear that he may have what it takes to stay with the team.
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