It’s hard to come up with anybody on the defensive side of the ball who is not playing well. Pretty much everybody for the Pittsburgh Steelers is playing at a pretty high level right now. That includes, but is not limited to, third-year cornerback Mike Hilton, who is enjoying something of a bounceback season after having his struggles a year ago.
On the season, he has compiled 34 tackles, including four of them for a loss, with a nice interception, four passes defensed, a sack, and a forced fumble. According to Pro Football Reference, he is allowing 5.9 yards per target with two touchdowns to his one interception, and he has only missed three tackles.
While he only had two tackles against the Los Angeles Rams, as well as a hit on the quarterback, Hilton played well, and played extensively, in Sunday’s game. In fact, he saw 70 snaps during the game, 22 more than in any other game this season.
“Mike’s always game”, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of Hilton when he was asked about the third-year cornerback’s work against the Rams, and working against Cooper Kupp, who was held without a catch. “He plays hard. He’s got a well-rounded game, not only in coverage, but in run defense, and pressure. You know we like to bring him”.
Tomlin did emphasize, however, that it was a lot more than just Hilton that went into their strategy for neutralizing Kupp. “But he didn’t cover Kupp alone, man”, he said. “A guy like Kupp requires multiple people, and particularly in those situational moments, and that probably is a more accurate description of how he was minimized, not taking anything away from Mike, but just paying respect to Kupp and what he’s capable of”.
Hilton entered this season as an exclusive rights free agent and was hoping to get a new contract from the front office. But he never waivered in showing up to practice. He was not rewarded with a new contract, but the work that he is putting in this season, an overall improvement over last year and more similar to his first season with the team, is making it likely that he gets a multi-year deal next year.
In the meantime, he still has a job to do, and a critical one at that. He continues to largely hold off Cameron Sutton from taking over his job, and that hasn’t been an easy task, because Sutton has been playing well himself.