Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: I’m not necessarily sure that I would say Mike Hilton played better in 2020 than he did the year before, but he certainly put out tape that represents himself well as he prepares to hit the open market for the first time in his career, including a career-high in takeaways.
Mike Hilton only played in 12 games during the regular season last year due to injuries, after having only missed one game in his first three years. He played under 400 snaps as a result, after having played more than 500 in each of the previous three, including approaching 700 snaps the year before this past season.
And yet in spite of the fact that he only played in 12 games, he set a career-high in takeaways with three interceptions and two fumbles recovered, coming close to averaging a takeaway every other game, which is more than acceptable for a slot defender.
Of course, you don’t get more versatile in the slot than Hilton, and, again, he spent this past season demonstrating that. Not only did he have 10 total pass disruptions in coverage, he also had eight tackles for loss and three sacks with five quarterback hits, showing that he can perform in coverage, against, the run, and as a pass-rusher.
Any team who is looking into him will value his ability to do a variety of things well, even if he is not necessarily elite at any one thing. Being a jack of all trades is a very desirable commodity in particular, though, for a slot defender.
We will just have to see what the market looks like for an undersized cornerback, though, in a down year for the salary cap. Will the Steelers be able to afford to keep him around? He seems to be the free agent that fans have focused on most in terms of hoping they will realistically be able to retain, and there is good reason for that. The defense literally adjusted with creative new formations to accommodate for his absence when he missed time last year, he was that important.