Behind The Steel Curtain says the 2012 season is an important one for the Steelers' defensive line. The Steelers took defensive linemen in the first round in two of the last four drafts (grabbing Ziggy Hood in 2009 and Cameron Heyward in 2011), and they traded up this year to get nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu in the fourth round this year. They're in the midst of a transition from older players like Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, and Casey Hampton to younger ones like Hood, Heyward, Ta'amu and Steve McLendon. The 2012 season will be crucial for Hood, in particular:
Hood did not have a great 2011, and it was the season for him to shine. With Aaron Smith's injury, he had an opportunity to establish himself as the next man up on the famed Steelers defensive line. Simply put, he failed to do that, and there's no more reason to feel secure at his position than there was at this time last year.
It's a big season for him. With his contract expiring at the end of the 2013 season, and many other similar-aged Steelers also looking for extensions around the same time, he's going to have to take a step or two forward this year.
The defensive line will be interesting to watch this season. In particular, it would be nice if the Steelers got nice seasons from Hood and Heyward, helping set the defensive end positions for the near future.