Mike Hilton, the camp darling, the guy you/we/your uncle who watched one practice, can’t stop talking about, may have his roster spot in jeopardy. Last night, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded for cornerback Dashaun Phillips. It certainly wasn’t a blockbuster trade, the Steelers parting away with their 4th string center for a cornerback who has two career starts. But it’s an indication that despite having a lot of names at corner, they’re not happy with the group.
Which could mean they’re looking to make a change. We know who is making the squad. Artie Burns, Ross Cockrell, Coty Sensabaugh, William Gay, and Cam Sutton. That’s five names. At max, and it’s actually looking more likely, the team keeps seven. Meaning, one of Brian Allen, Phillips, and Hilton are getting voted off the island.
Now, it could be Phillips. Talking with Matthew Marczi, he believes Phillips has another year of practice squad eligibility. And even if he doesn’t, or the Steelers cut him outright, it’s a no-risk move. Lucas Crowley didn’t even have a chance to make the practice squad. Anyone who complains this was a bad trade is, well…being an idiot.
But if Phillips does make the team, it could come at Hilton’s expense. Phillips is a slot corner and keeping him and Hilton on the 53 is excessive. That means having three essentially slot-exclusive corners – those two plus Gay, who is likely locked in there. Sensabaugh would be the first man up on the outside.
It’s like your college roommate who owns three fedoras. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it but, sheesh, find something else, Ted.
While Hilton has had a strong camp, is there enough of a resume, enough trust in him to be Gay’s immediate backup? That if Gay went down, Hilton would be the one to take the field? Or could it still be Sensabaugh, who has played there in the past and obviously has more NFL experience. Maybe that’s why Phillips was brought in, to be the true backup given his – albeit modest – NFL experience.
Hilton, as good as he’s been in camp, hasn’t exactly made a lot of plays in coverage these first two games. And physically, he is average. Undersized, lacks a vert, or straight line speed. Phillips was a good athlete coming out of tiny Tarleton State. Standing in at 5’11, 182 pounds, the latter when he came out four years ago, he’s probably heavier now, Phillips ran a 4.48, jumped 39 inches in the vert, 10’3″ in the broad, and a 3.97 in the three cone. All numbers that dust Hilton’s.
It’s no secret the Steelers have been attracted to cornerbacks with two traits: size and athleticism. Artie Burns, Brian Allen, and Phillips. Cam Sutton is a bigger slot corner, assuming that’s his future home. It’s a trend that doesn’t take more than a couple brain cells to figure out.
No one is saying Hilton is definitely going to be cut. But judging by this tweet, he’s on notice.
The Steelers wouldn’t have made this move if they were content with the group top to bottom. And Phillips isn’t going to push Cockrell. So the logical conclusion is he’s here to challenge those at the bottom.
Hilton came into camp with a chip on his shoulder. Now, he better be looking over it.