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
The 2019 season was definitely a good one for Mike Hilton, the three-year veteran cornerback for the Steelers who has pretty consistently held down the nickel job throughout that entire period of time. Originally a Jacksonville Jaguars undrafted free agent in 2016, he ended up on Pittsburgh’s practice squad by the end of that year before making the 53-man roster the following season.
The product of Ole Miss has done a great job over the course of his career of minimizing the effect of his height, and I don’t think any one statistic better attests to that fact than the fact that he has 22 tackles for loss over the course of the past two seasons. Given that he doesn’t even play every snap, that’s an extraordinary number, and probably represents the best ratio per snap among all cornerbacks over that period of time.
He had another six last season, plus a sack and a half and five quarterback hits, so Hilton is no stranger to spending a good amount of time in the backfield. We know that his run defense has always been solid, at least aside from the instances in which he misses a tackle.
Where he made strides last year was in coverage. He only intercepted one pass, but he posted a career-high 11 passes defensed, showing that he was able to be around the ball more frequently than in the past.
Pro Football Reference does credit him with giving up three touchdowns on the year, but only 29 total receptions on 54 targets for 352 yards, also doing a solid job of minimizing yards after the catch.
The question that persists this offseason is how the Steelers will approach his contract status. Exclusively a slot defender, unless he rotates back to safety, Hilton is limited in what role he can play. He is a restricted free agent, so they could give him a second-round tender, but an extension, if feasible, figures to be on the table later in the offseason as well, if not sooner. That could depend on the status of the CBA before the start of the new league year.