Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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: Even
Earlier in the offseason, the Steelers placed a second-round restricted free agent tender on fourth-year cornerback Mike Hilton, a former undrafted free agent of the Jaguars who spent his first year in the NFL as a practice squad player for multiple teams.
I expect that that is as far as things will go, which is why I’m evaluating his stock as even. The tender will pay him around $3 million for this season, which is a nice raise for him, about double what he has earned in his first three seasons combined, but it’s not what he was looking for.
Remember, this is a guy who as an exclusive rights free agent in 2019 was already looking for a new contract. While he didn’t go so far as to not attend any practices as a result of his desire for a contract, he was hoping that he would have some long-term security.
Things could change down the road, and I could be completely wrong, but from where I’m sitting right now, I don’t see Hilton being given a long-term extension before the start of the regular season, which would mean that he would be due to be an unrestricted free agent in March of 2021.
He has played well enough to earn a contract, no doubt, even if his stat sheet doesn’t necessarily look gaudy, but one would be hard-pressed to find another cornerback under 5’10” who is nearly as complete a player as he is, and teams who actually watch tape will see that and value that.
Failing to receive a new deal this year, assuming that that is actually the case, doesn’t mean it won’t happen before the start of the new league year next year, of course, but whether or not it will even be in the discussion depends a lot on what happens later this season, particularly in the development of Cameron Sutton, who will also be a free agent in 2021, and Justin Layne, who was a third-round pick a year ago. It also, of course, depends on his price.