He didn't expect to get the playing time he did this season, but when he was called upon Ziggy Hood stepped up.
The Steelers number one draft pick in 2009 thought most of his learning his rookie season would be done from the sidelines, watching the veterans ahead of him. But when injures started to mount on the defensive line, Hood was called to duty.
"When I came in I was told I would catch one or two snaps and spend most time on special teams," said Hood. "When 'Big A' (Aaron Smith) went down, and I had to step in for Travis (Kirschke) and Nick (Eason) when they needed a break and for Brett (Keisel),
"I did what I had to do and came in and think I played pretty well. There were some aspects where I was disappointed. If I would have done this a little bit more, took this right step or shot my hands quicker maybe I would have done a whole lot more. It was a big bonus for me to go in there. I had no idea I was going to play this much anyway."
Hood finished the season with seven tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery, but took away something even more important from his first season in the NFL.
"Having the experience under my belt and stepping on the field first hand were important," said Hood. "Next year will hopefully be a lot better and I will come out stronger and play a whole lot better.
"It was all a mental game. There are some things you can do, try to outrun someone, out power them. Toward the end you had to become a whole lot smarter. That is where I developed more. Instead of just using my athletic ability I was looking beyond, looking at the formation, looking at the guy in front of me and trying to really study, what can he do, what blocks can I get, how can I approach this and disrupt the offensive line."
While Hood was getting increased playing time, Smith could do nothing but watch his team after being placed on injured reserve on Oct. 14. And it wasn't easy.
"It was the most frustrated I have been," said Smith. "I have been on injured reserve before but it wasn't this long. To watch this many games and not be able to help the guys and contribute is hard for me to take."
And what made it even harder was seeing the team struggle at times during the season, especially when they went through a five-game losing streak.
"It's hard to just watch," said Smith. You build relationships and you are part of the team and to see them struggle. I don't know if I would have made a difference, but I sure would have liked to help them out."
Smith, though, plans on being back ready to go for the 2010 season.
"I am doing really well. I plan on coming back in full force and contributing next year," said Smith. "The offseason is really important to get back to where I can compete and help the team."