The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense has been elevating itself over the course of recent weeks. It hasn’t always been pretty—it hasn’t even always been effective, for that matter—but it has been better in comparison to where they started the season.
Part of the reason that they have been able to make those improvements is because they have been getting more consistent performances from some of their most reliable players on the roster, and one of those has been Mike Hilton, who has only been on the roster for two years, emerging as a darkhorse candidate last season to open up the year as the starting nickel cornerback.
He has held that job since then and doesn’t appear likely to relinquish it any time soon as he continues to make plays. Today against the Baltimore Ravens, he recorded two tackles for losses and had a big pass defensed to go along with four total tackles and was otherwise seen to play a clean game.
After the Steelers scored a touchdown in the first quarter to take the lead at 7-3, the Ravens were starting to move after picking up a first down in two plays. But on first and 10 from the 36-yard line, Hilton was able to get into the backfield and brought running back Alex Collins down for a loss of two yards.
Later, with five minutes to play in the first half, the Ravens were looking to respond to the Steelers’ second touchdown of the game, getting the ball all the way down to the four-yard line to set up a third and two. Quarterback Lamar Jackson took the snap and looked to run up the right sideline, but Hilton made the open-field tackle to cut him down for a loss of one, forcing Baltimore to settle for yet another field goal.
All of that came after he was able to wrestle the football away from big Ravens rookie tight end Mark Andrews in the end zone on a pass from the 10-yard line on first and goal. Baltimore would end up settling for field goals on both of their first two trips inside the red zone, and Hilton played a critical role in seeing that happen.
The former college free agent now has five tackles for loss on the season after adding two to his total today, including four in the Steelers’ past three games. He dropped Duke Johnson for a loss of three against the Cleveland Browns a week ago and Mark Walton for a loss of one against the Cincinnati Bengals before the bye week. Jacquizz Rodgers back in Week Three was his other victim.