The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will Mike Hilton be ready to play against the Ravens?
It didn’t take long for former college free agent cornerback Mike Hilton to become one of the Steelers’ most versatile and trusted defenders. As a late practice squad addition in 2016, he emerged from the shadows to start the season opener the following year and has been their slot defender since.
The second-year player suffered an elbow injury on Monday against Tampa Bay, however, and it’s far from certain that he will be able to play. While he seems to have avoided suffering any significant damage, he has been held back and was only a limited participant in practice yesterday.
Perhaps today will be the key tell of whether or not he is able to play, but I don’t know that even full participation in practice will guarantee him that. Hilton told reporters yesterday that he is working on being able to fully extend his injured arm.
Having been on a short week thanks to the Monday night game doesn’t help matters. Should he fail to play, it will be the first game he’s missed since being in the league. So far he has a fumble recovery and an interception, though the former happened because he missed a tackle and the latter was off of a deflection at the line of scrimmage.
If Hilton does not play, then Joe Haden’s will be the only spot among the cornerbacks that is solidified. Artie Burns’ job opposite him is under siege, and it’s possible that both Coty Sensabaugh and Cameron Sutton play there.
Both of the latter-named players are also the candidates to play in the slot for Hilton. On Monday, Sensabaugh actually played inside with Sutton outside after Hilton left the game. But if he doesn’t play at all, I would anticipate that Sutton will start in the slot, Sensabaugh outside.