The Steelers cut long time veteran Aaron Smith, who had played 13 years with the team, this offseason, opening up a starting job on the defensive line. The Steelers were prepared for this day as they spent 2 first round picks on defensive linemen, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward, in the 2009 and 2011 NFL Draft respectively, with Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel getting up there in age.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hood has the inside track on the starting job. Hood has seen a good amount of the field over the past 2 seasons with Smith hurt, but graded out as the league’s worst 3-4 defensive end last year according to ProFootballFocus. The Steelers seem to be banking on Hood, who is still young, bouncing back in 2012 in what would be his first full season as a starter. Heyward is still in the competition and would step in if Hood continues to struggle, but the Steelers obviously hope Hood can pan out and Heyward can be the starter opposite him in 2013, when Keisel, 34 in September will probably be gone.