Ziggy, then a zero for Steelers in draft

PITTSBURGH (AP) " For the Steelers, it was a case of a Ziggy and a zero on the first day of the NFL draft.

When Evander "Ziggy" Hood heard his name called Saturday as the Steelers' first-round pick, one thought instantly flashed through his mind.

"I'm part of the Steel Curtain," said Hood, the first defensive lineman taken by Pittsburgh on the first round since four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton in 2001.

As it turned out, Hood represents the Steelers' total opening day haul. They traded their second-round selection " the 64th and final pick of the day " and a fourth-rounder to Denver for a pair of third-round picks on Sunday, the 79th and 84th picks.

The trade gives Pittsburgh three picks in the third round, including the No. 96 overall pick they already owned. Director of football operations Kevin Colbert had said there was enough depth in the draft that starters could be found throughout the first three rounds.

The Steelers spent most of the second round trying to trade up, only to wind up trading down.

"This was a better option," Colbert said. "It was a chance to pick up extra picks, and it was inviting. We'd like to get three quality guys."

They believe they got one in Hood, who already has graduated from Missouri and, according to coach Mike Tomlin, has the kind of character the Steelers prize above all other qualities in a draft pick.

"He's a Steelers kind of player. There's no holes in this guy," Tomlin said. "He's a captain at Missouri, a leader, a good player. He's a guy who will fit in very quickly from a personality standpoint."

Hood didn't expect to go to Pittsburgh, but became a bit unnerved when he realized he was going to the defending Super Bowl champions.

"I couldn't describe the feeling," he said. "My stomach just tightened up all of a sudden and I choked. I almost fainted."

The Steelers can only hope Hood doesn't feel the same way before games. They had only one 15-minute, face-to-face meeting at the Indianapolis scouting combine with Hood before drafting him. Colbert said Hood made such an instant impression that it wasn't necessary to bring him to Pittsburgh for a predraft meeting.

The 22-year-old Hood adds some youth to the Steelers' productive but aging defensive line. Starting defensive linemen Aaron Smith, Hampton and Brett Keisel and their backups all will be 31 or older next season.

"He's a special guy, and that was evident the first time we met this kid," Colbert said. "He's somebody we felt good about from first time we scouted him. ... He's a high-quality player and person. He gives us a lot of versatility. He can play defensive end and help out on the nose in some schemes."

Hood is certain he knows what he did to impress the Steelers, besides making 10 sacks the last two seasons.

"It was more than my ability, speed and strength," Hood said. "I think the way I presented myself, I came off with good character, and I knew a little bit about the game and I explained my defense to coach Tomlin and the Pittsburgh staff. I can be coached, I have no problem being coached and I don't mind fixing or adjusting to different things."

Hood was a defensive tackle in college but will move to defensive end in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense.

"Anything I put my mind to, I can do it," Hood said. "I'm going to come in as quick as possible. My work begins tomorrow. ... I'm coming in to study as hard as I can. I'm going to put a load on my shoulders."

And, and for that Ziggy nickname, Hood said it came from the comic strip character. His grandmother grew up in Mexico and had trouble with some English words, so he gained the nickname because it was easy to say.

The Steelers created some salary cap room to sign their draft picks by working out a contract extension with wide receiver Hines Ward that will pay him a lower salary than the $5.8 million he was to make this season. The money will be made up in a signing bonus as part of what is expected to be a four-year, $22 million deal.


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