I think almost everybody’s favorite player on the Pittsburgh Steelers at this point is Roosevelt Nix. But for the rest, their favorite seems to be Mike Hilton, their first-year starter at nickel back, a former undrafted free agent whom they originally signed to the practice squad at the end of the regular season in 2016.
A former teammate of—well, I’ve been asked in the past not to bring up his name in connection with Hilton, so let’s just get right into the tape instead. Here we go.
On the third play of the game, the Bengals sent a wide receiver in motion to the opposite side of the field, flipping coverages. Hilton stayed in to play the run, getting inside the block attempt of the remaining receiver from that side, but was just out of reach of making the play.
Later on the same drive, he continued to show quick read-and-react skills, as he did a week ago, this time blowing up a screen to Giovani Bernard. He never caught the ball, but it would have been better if he had, as Hilton would have dropped him for a loss of five or six.
He finished off the drive on the next play, coming off his route as the quarterback flushed to his right, Tyler Kroft coming on a crossing route over the middle. He saw this and broke on it, making the initial hit, Ryan Shazier cleaning up, to force a punt.
On a later drive, the Bengals were in a third and five approaching the red zone. They stacked the receivers to the right side after motioning, and were able to get A.J. Green on Hilton down the field, with better than half a foot’s height advantage. Andy Dalton was able to hit him on the corner route for 15.
About midway through the second, Cincinnat looking to score, Hilton blitzed off the edge, running past the running back to pressure Dalton, inducing a throwaway on second down.
On the next play, they again motioned into a stacked formation to the left, Brandon LaFell in the slot. Dalton hit him on an out route, but Hilton was able to close in time to force him out of bounds down to the one.
There hasn’t been a lot to knock Hilton for so far this year. He may be the most consistent performer in the secondary at the moment. But it’s still early, of course, just seven games into his career.