Hood, like most rookies, had almost no impact in 2009. He spent his season on special teams and learned the playbook of the complex defense run by Dick LeBeau. In 2010, he got his big chance to make a first impression when Aaron Smith went down with a major injury.
Hood played impressively, yet quietly. He looked, in fact, much like Smith. He certainly looked like an NFL-caliber player.
What He Brings to the Table
Hood gets a good jump off the snap and has great hands and technique. Like most Pittsburgh defensive linemen, his primary job isn't to tackle, it's to get holes opened up for the linebackers to rush through and to keep holes closed to opposing runners. Hood did both jobs well last season and even added a few of his own big plays. His work went largely unnoticed outside Pittsburgh, but he certainly proved his worth.
This year should be interesting. Smith is healthy and he will likely be in a platoon with Hood. Hood will have the chance to play Smith onto the bench, but it likely won't happen for good until 2012 or 2013. Smith can't afford to be injured again, so Hood figures to get a lot of time on the field to keep Smith fresh and healthy.
Cameron Heyward's presence adds another intriguing subplot to 2012 and beyond, but Hood has the first chance to unseat Smith by playing well this year.