The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: 2020 will be Mike Hilton’s final season in Pittsburgh.
Explanation: Make no bones about it, the uncovering of Mike Hilton in 2017 was nothing short of finding a diamond in the rough. A former undrafted free agent who got kicked around the league as a rookie, he has been a starting and starting-quality nickelback for three years. And that’s why, after one more year, he may price his way out of town.
While I don’t think that Hilton in any way would want to leave Pittsburgh, football is first and foremost a business, or at least the NFL is. This man should have a life-changing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2021 to completely change the fortunes of his family for a generation by signing a significant contract in free agency.
And the Steelers may not be willing or able to pay. They are already paying two cornerbacks in Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, for one thing. Minkah Fitzpatrick will be due soon enough. Cameron Sutton is also going to be up and they have to make a decision about him. He will probably be cheaper. Then there’s Justin Layne, who they want to play. If he has potential, you need to give him an opening to crack the field. There is a very good chance the Steelers won’t be Hilton’s highest bidder in 10 months’ time. Just the reality.
As much as the Steelers appreciate Hilton, I’m not sure that he garners the same sort of attention league-wide. He did have a better season in 2019 than in 2018, but he’s not really even a household name among slot defenders, truth be told, and that will keep his price down to some degree.
While Sutton showed some potential in fairly limited snaps, Hilton is the known commodity who has been at it for three years. it’s going to come down to a one-or-the-other scenario, and that usually favors the one who’s starting. That would be Hilton, who is among the most complete and versatile slot defenders in the league. They pay for value. Nobody is going to be giving him starter money on the outside, so this isn’t a Javon Hargrave situation. We’re talking about an even playing field. Hilton isn’t going anywhere.