The other day I took a look at Pittsburgh Steelers third-year defensive back Mike Hilton’s work from the slot position in the last preseason game, and it was found quite wanting. He was beaten deep multiple times for receptions, including a touchdown. So I thought it only fair if I reviewed his work in the second part of the game at safety in a separate article.
Hilton understands that as a safety his most important role is acting as the last line of defense. He takes pride in his tackling, which is what gives him confidence that he can play the position. On this eight-yard screen early in the third quarter, he has to clean up after a Brian Allen missed tackle. Tyler Matakevich might have gotten the angle to do so as well, but the important thing is that the safety was there.
Two plays later, you get a look at him coming up to play the run. As the back scurries to the right, ultimately working his way outside the numbers, you see Hilton coming into the picture late in the play and laying a big hit to help put the runner down with authority on second and 10.
There were two very good plays that he made in coverage as well, the first of which we see above. This was I believe the next play following a penalty, now second and 20. He was at safety depth playing zone and read the quarterback well, breaking on the receiver crossing into his zone and was able to play the ball from over the top, breaking up the pass. It fluttered up into the air, but nobody was able to make a play on it.
Later in the third quarter, Hilton again comes up to play the run, this time getting much closer to the line of scrimmage, closer to his more familiar slot depth. He first stays to the left to preserve the gap in that direction before following the back to the middle of the field, recording the primary tackle following a three-yard gain.
And you see the other great coverage play above. Although the receiver was already losing the ball as he was coming down, outjumping Cameron Sutton in coverage, Hilton made a great play to lay a big, clean hit to make sure that the catch would not be completed. This was on third and seven, a possession down, two plays after the play above, so a big spot there.
This is the first formal in-game work that he has ever gotten in his career, and I have to say I’m hoping to see more, because he had a good outing against the Kansas City Chiefs. It would definitely increase his value to be able to play multiple positions, since the team doesn’t trust him to play outside.