It struck me as noteworthy that Pittsburgh Steelers second-year cornerback Mike Hilton did not play against the Green Bay Packers on defense on Thursday night, seemingly for the purpose of allowing Cameron Sutton the opportunity to work with the starters. He did play the first snap of special teams in punt coverage, but then did not return.
Now, during tonight’s practice at Heinz Field, Hilton is reportedly not suited up in pads, suggesting that he is not going to practice, or at least not be a full participant. That also struck me as noteworthy. So I went back to look at that one special teams snap that he took.
No Mike Hilton or Morgan Burnett today. Unknown reason. #Steelers
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) August 19, 2018
The former undrafted free agent initially helped to garner attention with his work on special teams in the preseason opener a year ago, in which he made multiple plays in punt coverage as a gunner. He opened Thursday night’s game as the starting left outside gunner, but that would be the only snap he played. Why?
It appears, upon closer inspection, that he may have gotten injured. As you can see below, he got tangled up with the Packers’ punt returner, who was running up to field a shanked punt. As Hilton turned around to look for the ball—cued in by the returner’s movements—he collided, perhaps knee-to-knee, and appeared to favor it a bit after the impact.
This was the only snap that he played for the entire game. It’s unlikely that the plan for him was to play the first snap in punt coverage of the game and then nothing else for the right of the night, which leads me to believe that he did indeed suffer a minor injury, and the fact that he hasn’t donned the pads tonight indicates that is a realistic possibility.
Assuming that this is the case—and again, I’m offering speculation for now until we here something from Mike Tomlin—it doesn’t appear to be anything too serious or that should keep him out very long, though I’m not an expert. That would be our own Melanie Friedlander.
I can’t offer anything more than that, unfortunately. I don’t recall observing him on the sidelines at any other point in the game during the broadcast, so I have no knowledge of whether or not he spent any time with a trainer.
But if you are looking for a reason as to why Hilton is not participating now, this is the best that I could come up with, trying to put two and two together. For whatever time he misses, though, that will afford others such as Sutton to play some valuable snaps they otherwise would not have gotten.