If the Pittsburgh Steelers have one defensive training camp darling this year at Saint Vincent College it has to be cornerback Mike Hilton, a former undrafted free agent out of Mississippi, who spent some time last year with the team on their practice squad. Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake certainly seems to like Hilton, according to what he said Wednesday morning during his interview on Steelers Nation Radio.
“He’s tenacious, he’s got some physical tools to help him make plays,” Lake said of Hilton. “He’s a willing tackler, he’s smart and he can play multiple positions back there and so he adds a lot of value to the defensive backs.”
Lake was asked if Hilton sort of reminds him of a former Steelers defensive back that he played with in Pittsburgh during his career, Willie Williams, and while he agreed somewhat with that comp, he also offered up one if his own.
“Absolutely, you could move Willie around,” Lake said of Williams, who played two different stints with the Steelers from 1993 to 1996 and from 2004 to 2005. “Willie was fast, very fast and smart and [he] wound up being a starter here for the Steelers. Another guy that I would say back in the day a lot of people may not remember his name, but Chris Oldham was also a key contributor on defense for a number of years here not only on special teams, but also on the defense. He played the dimeback and that’s kind of how I see Mike’s role.”
Chris Oldham, in case you forgot, was originally a fourth-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 1990 and he played for the Steelers from 1995 to 1999. Oldham measured in at 5-9, 200-pounds. Hilton, by the way, is listed at 5-9, 184 on the Steelers official website.
While Hilton had a much tougher path to the NFL than both Williams and Oldham had, Lake really doesn’t care how he got to Pittsburgh.
“It’s not how you get here that really matters, it doesn’t matter to me at all and obviously it isn’t mattering to Mike Hilton, either,” Lake said. “He’s happy to be here. We picked him up basically off the street midway through the season last year to help us on the practice squad and we noticed that had some particular skills that allowed us to believe that hey, this guy’s got something and he’s proving to be a standout.”
With the Steelers first preseason game of 2017 set to take place Friday night, it will be interesting to see if Hilton can standout under the bright lights of an NFL stadium both as a defensive player but on special teams as well. If he does and he continues to do so in the other three exhibition games, there’s a very strong chance he ultimately makes the final 53-man roster this year.