2018 Offseason Questions: What Is Mike Hilton’s Ceiling?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: What is Mike Hilton’s ceiling?

A lot of people are excited about the Steelers’ young slot cornerback, Mike Hilton, and understandably so. He had something of a breakout season a year ago as a first-year player, becoming the team’s primary slot defender from the season opener and just continued to play well and make an impact throughout the season.

The first question we have to think about is this: is he really as good as he seemed? He appeared to be capable of making plays in every phase, from run stops to sacks to interceptions. How much of his success was due to good fortune, unfamiliarity, and generally things going his way?

The next question is: how much further can he go? And as we enter this discussion we are obligated to acknowledge his size. He is under 5’9”. How does that limit him? Is he a fixture in the slot, or would he be capable of being a starting cornerback that can see those snaps on the outside in base defense?

Can he become a Pro Bowler? Now, that’s definitely getting ahead of ourselves, considering the last Steelers cornerback to make the Pro Bowl was Rod Woodson, but really, is that his ceiling? Does he have the skill, the drive, and the opportunity to become the caliber of player that can get voted into the Pro Bowl?

Hilton played under 600 snaps during his rookie season. He did a lot of good things, something that we took the time to point out after almost every game during the regular season, but his missed tackles are not something that gets mentioned a lot, and when I do, I sometimes get backlash for bringing it up. He also got lucky in coverage a fair bit, especially in the Patriots game.

He should be even better this season than he was a year ago, though. He should have learned from his first taste of playing time, from playing a full season, and from being a full-time professional in a structured environment. Spring reports have been positive. Where does he go from here, and how far can he go?

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