The Steelers changed the roles of a couple of first-round draft picks when they decided to demote 2009 first-rounder Ziggy Hood and replace him with 2011 first-rounder Cameron Heyward at defensive end.
Hood, the No. 32 pick in the 2009 draft, has started 43 games for the Steelers. He started nine in 2010, the year the Steelers went to the Super Bowl, after Aaron Smith went down with an injury. He started 14 games the following season in place of Smith and Brett Keisel when they dealt with injuries. When Smith retired after the 2011 season, Hood earned the starting job out of training camp and played all 16 games in 2012.
Hood said he did not see the demotion coming.
"Not at all," he said. "But it happens to some of us. We just have to continue to roll and keep going. I'm just a player. I just work here. Orders were given. I just have to follow along and go."
Hood said he expects to continue to play as part of a rotation of defensive ends, likely similar to the way Heyward was used as a substitute in the first four games. Hood had been part of a defensive line that has contributed just one sack through the first four games.
"I look at it as this is my opportunity to get better, step back for a little bit and observe what's going on," Hood said. "It grounds you a little bit so you can focus on the little things that got you there.
"It's trials and tribulations. Things will be put in front of you. How you deal with them and overcome them ??? you see where you stand as a football player. If you can deal with things like this, you become one of the great ones. I just have to deal with it and keep moving on."
Hood, in the final year of his rookie contract, had been hoping to earn another contract with the Steelers, but his demotion could signal the end of his career in Pittsburgh.
"I don't know," said Hood, when asked if he believes he has a future with the Steelers. "That's not until down the road. The opportunity is still there. I have to continue to go and take this step by step."
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published October 9, 2013 8:52 PM