Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: CB Mike Hilton
Stock Value: Up
He didn’t get off to the best start of the season, but third-year cornerback Mike Hilton has been picking up the pace in recent weeks, building up to another strong showing on Sunday in a loss in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens.
Hilton recorded four tackles in the game, including one for a loss, while picking up his first interception of the season, and has three passes defensed over the course of the past two games, as he appears to be playing faster and with more confidence, allowing him to get closer to the ball more frequently.
As Alex Kozora will be quick to point out, nobody has more tackles for loss among defensive backs than Mike Hilton since he made the 53-man roster, and that is something that he is continuing this year, already with three coming over the course of the past four games.
Most important is the fact that he is showing more consistency in coverage than he had indicated over the course of the preseason and in the first couple of games of the regular season, during which stretch he was seemingly beaten several times for big plays, either falling for a move or simply getting outrun. He has been more aggressive and yet controlled since then.
The Steelers need him to be at his best this season, given the circumstances of the team and the impetus on the defense to carry them a bit. That will be especially important this week if Steven Nelson is out, and with the potential of getting a good dose of Keenan Allen out of the slot.
We know that he is capable of contributing against the run, and he can blitz as well, even if Keith Butler utilizes that too frequently, to the point that it’s become easy for opponents to scout and account for. But if he can maintain a higher level of play in coverage as well, he may yet earn that long-term contract after this season.