You know him. You love him. He is a fan favorite. Admittedly, he is a bit of a Steelers Depot favorite, as well. But first-year cornerback Mike Hilton keeps making plays that are putting him in good position to make the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster.
He was not as dynamic a presence on special teams, though he did have his moments. He drew a hold on the first punt of the game, and served as both a gunner and a jammer throughout the first half while looking the part.
In the first preseason game, of course, he recorded three tackles on special teams, while inducing a fair catch and recovering a fumble on a punt on which he split a pair of vice jammers and was the first player down the field as the returner muffed the football.
But it’s his work on defense that will be emphasized here, as he perhaps prepares for a role as the Steelers’ backup nickel cornerback this year. And while he is small, he shows that he has the strength and physicality to hold up.
The preseason unfortunately makes many plays difficult to evaluate simply due to the lack of quality angles, and usually no replays, so we end up doing a lot of extrapolating. Near the end of the first half, though, he was nearly in position to pick off an underthrown pass down the field. Make of that what you will.
A coverage play in which we get a better look comes later, 10 minutes into the third quarter. Playing in the defensive right slot, Hilton dropped a couple steps pre-snap as the tight end motioned to his side as the inside receiver. He was able to quickly read that the pass was going there, and as it went wide of the intended targeted, he was in a position to make the would-be tackle, and nearly in position for an interception.
As mentioned, his lack of size inevitably raises questions about his toughness and ability to hold up, but through two preseason games, he has shown aggressiveness against the run. This tackle in which he chased the play out of the far slot to limit it to six yards is a good example. Especially in a defense like the Steelers’ the want-to to play the run is very important, and he has that.
Of course, he bread and butter in the first preseason game was his effectiveness as a blitzer. He has a sack, a hit, and a hurry in that game. In this one, he nearly had another sack, which was nearly a safety, but ended up just being a pressure on third and long that forced a punt.
Put simply, Hilton has done the sort of things that make teams for fringe players such as himself. He’s done it for two games now, and while he will have to continue to do so, I would think he’s in the driver’s seat for a roster spot.