Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: CB Mike Hilton
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: With four tackles, three stops, an interception, and a fumble recovery, Mike Hilton continued his strong season on the eve of free agency.
Pound for pound, there can’t be too many players on the NFL, especially on the defensive side of the ball, who are as good as Steelers nickel cornerback Mike Hilton, who is in his fourth season with the team as a former college free agent.
Regardless of his beginnings and his size, Hilton has been one of the Steelers’ most important defensive players, in no small part due to his versatility, in being capable of playing in coverage as well as defending the run and rushing the passer.
Sunday’s performance as a good example of that, recording a couple of tackles for run stops while pressuring quarterback Philip Rivers. He was in the backfield to recover the ball on a T.J. Watt strip sack, and late in the fourth quarter, he picked off a deep pass.
He now has career highs with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries (he also has a forced fumble), and his five total takeaways on the year leaves him tied with Pro Bowl safety Minkah Fitzpatrick for the most on the team this season.
Long established as a fan favorite, Hilton has continued to produce year after year, and now he is finally on the cusp of being financially compensated relative to his performance. The only real question is whether or not it will be the Steelers who will be paying him.
There are not many defenders who can do everything that Hilton does from run support to man coverage to rushing the passer. There is a reason that players with his skill set are a desired commodity. He is virtually indispensable to this defense at this point—the Steelers even used a five-linebacker package earlier this year just to compensate for his absence when he was out with injury.