Player: Mike Hilton
Experience: 4 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2020 Salary Cap Hit: $3,259,000
2020 Season Breakdown:
The 2020 season might have been the best of Mike Hilton’s career for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The former college free agent missed four games due to injury, and yet he still produced five takeaways, including a career-high three interceptions, and two recovered fumbles.
He also finished the year with more than 50 tackles despite only playing three quarters of the season, with eight tackles for loss, and three sacks, so he spent a good chunk of time in the backfield—certainly more than the vast majority of defensive backs do.
As he has shown throughout his career, Hilton displayed the full breadth of his skillset in 2020, playing well in coverage, against the run, and as a blitzer, getting after the quarterback. His bread and butter has always been his ability to be a jack of all trades, and he offered more of the same in that regard.
With that said, he still has his moments. While he is very aggressive and physical for his size, he is still one of the smallest players you’re ever going to see in the box. Playing so close to the line of scrimmage so frequently, he does have a tendency to miss some tackles in this area.
He also has some frustrating lapses in coverage, which we saw even in the postseason, with Jarvis Landry getting the better of him for a long touchdown in the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns. He’s not and has never been a lockdown corner, but he generally has held his own more often than not.
Free Agency Outlook:
Hilton has been looking for a new deal for a couple of years now. There were talks about him hoping for a long-term contract extension back going into the 2019 season when he was an exclusive rights free agent. He again hoped for a deal as a restricted free agent heading into last season.
Now the four-year veteran is on the verge of going on the open market, and while he won’t break anybody’s bank, he should make a decent chunk of change. Playing under a second-round restricted free agent tender this past season, he already earned over $3 million. A contract worth in the neighborhood of $4-5 million per season, over three or four years, would certainly be reasonable.
The value of the slot cornerback has gone up tremendously in recent years, both in actual fact and in how they have been represented financially, and Hilton is the most versatile true slot cornerback in the NFL. He is on a high-profile team. Scouts know who he is, and he will have suitors. He will be paid. It could be by the Steelers. But they will have competition if he gets to the open market.