We’ll find out during the 2020 season if the Pittsburgh Steelers made the right decision in hiring Ike Hilliard to be the team’s new wide receivers coach. In the meantime, however, it sure seems like Hilliard’s NFL coaching resume and recent accomplishments as the Washington Redskins wide receivers coach made him an easy choice for the Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin.
While Hilliard has coached a lot of great wide receivers in his nine seasons as a coach in the NFL, what he managed to accomplish with several of the Redskins wide receivers during the 2019 season needs to be highlighted as well.
According to Pro Football Reference, last season there were just 11 rookie wide receivers that registered 30 or more receptions and 300 or more receiving yards and three of those players, Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon, did so as members of the Redskins and thus under the tutelage of Hilliard. Dating back to 2000, only one other team, the 2014 Jacksonville Jaguars, had three rookie wide receivers catch 30 or more passes and have 300 or more receiving yards.
McLaurin’s rookie season, which included him catching 58 passes for 919 yards and seven touchdowns, probably wasn’t too surprising to too many people as the Ohio State product was a third-round draft pick who excelled at the 2019 scouting combine and Senior Bowl. What Harmon and Sims both managed to accomplish in their 2019 rookie seasons, however, is worth noting because the former was a sixth-round selection while the latter was signed as an undrafted free agent.
Harmon, an underclassman North Carolina State product, caught 30 passes for 365 yards as a rookie and averaged a little more than three receptions and 41 yards receiving in the Redskins final seven games of 2019. As for Sims, who played his college football at Kansas, he registered 34 receptions for 310 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. He averaged five catches and 57 yards receiving and a touchdown in the Redskins final four regular season games of 2019.
As for McLaurin’s fantastic rookie season with the Redskins, Hilliard answered quite a few questions regarding the young wide receiver’s rapid growth during a November interview for the team’s website and you can read that by following this link.
Now in Pittsburgh, Hilliard will take over the development of a very young wide receiver depth chart that includes JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson at the top of it. It’s also quite possible that Hilliard winds up with another young wide receiver to groom via the 2020 NFL Draft as the Steelers will likely select yet another one with one of their six currently scheduled picks.
Johnson, who just edged out McLaurin for the most receptions by a rookie wide receiver in 2019, is expected to make a huge jump in 2020 and it’s up to Hilliard to make sure that happens. I’m willing to bet that Hilliard gets that expected jump out of Johnson in 2020 and as long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returns to form in 2020, we could see Smith-Schuster come close to matching or bettering his great 2018 season as well.
In case you’re curious, below is Hilliard’s 2019 bio from the Redskins media guide and it details all of his career accomplishments heading into last season.Ike Hilliard 2019 Redskins bio