With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: Mike Hilton
I would ordinarily be writing about Jon Bostic here today since I wrote about Vince Williams yesterday and like to go through positions, but I talked about Bostic in the morning in my question of the day. There’s also the fact that the player who is the subject of today’s article is actually more of a ‘starter’ based on playing time.
Bostic has played 277 snaps to date in six games. Mike Hilton has played 240 snaps, but that includes a game that he missed. So Hilton is actually averaging a couple more snaps per game than is Bostic, even though the latter is a starting linebacker and Hilton is the nickel defender. In today’s defense, however, they play about as often as one another, since they use the 3-4 and dime defenses about roughly as frequently.
Speaking of Mike Hilton, it is no surprise that he has been one of the Steelers’ most reliable defenders, though he is certainly not free of any blame. He has 18 tackles on the season so far to go along with a recovered fumble, an interception, and four passes defensed.
The fumble recovery, though, came in the same game in which he missed a tackle that led to the fumble being forced by a teammate in the first place. It was also the same game in which he recorded his interception, which was the result of a blitz by Bostic, the pass ricocheting off the linebacker’s helmet and popping up into the air.
While he has gotten a few hits on the quarterback and has generally blitzed effectively as he had last year, Hilton has yet to record a sack, but it’s hard to imagine him not finishing the year with at least one or two.
He has had some rough spots in coverage but I believe has also been more aggressive in making plays on the ball when it is in the air. He only had six passes defensed all of last season, for example, but as mentioned already has four in five games in 2018. He is playing with more confidence in general and it is evident on the field.