Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: CB Mike Hilton
Stock Value: Even
I wanted to focus on at least some players at some point along the line whose stock did not rise or fall, at least significantly, as a result of the offseason process. One of those I think is Mike Hilton. You could argue that the departure of William Gay was a slight boost to his value, but the likelihood of increased three-safety looks could potentially hit his playing time, so I think it all roughly balances out to the point where the needle doesn’t really move for him.
I don’t want to say that he came out of nowhere last year (he was a player that Alex Kozora for example already liked coming out of college as a small defensive back who played much bigger), but if anybody assumed he was going to open up the 2017 season as the slot cornerback, they would have been laughed out of the room.
Hilton was on the practice squad in late December in 2016 and re-signed with the Steelers the following year as a Reserve/Future player. He just kept making plays throughout the offseason, and as his potential competition fell to the wayside (Senquez Golson, primarily), his opportunity arose and he seized it.
He proved to be a dynamic player in all phases, picking off passes, making stops in the run game, proving to be an effective blitzer, and making tackles on special teams as a gunner. He should have no problem holding on to this defensive role and perhaps even expanding upon it.
The Steelers are so confident that what Hilton showed last year is who he really is that they didn’t even seem to really entertain the possibility of drafting a cornerback in this draft, though that is also affected by the presence of a couple of second-year players they are hoping to develop in Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen.
Things are looking up for Hilton…but they already were. The draft didn’t change that, and I don’t think there was anything they realistically might have done that they did not that makes it look even better. It’s just a good time to be him.