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: Sold
Reasoning: Unfortunately, but predictably, the Steelers lost cornerback Mike Hilton in free agency after spending the past four seasons with them as their starting slot defender, joining the Cincinnati Bengals on a four-year, $24 million contract paying him on average more in one year than he earned in his entire career up to this point.
This one stings, I’m sure, for a lot of you. It was a rough day, with two fan favorites in Vince Williams and Mike Hilton, parting company with the Steelers—one voluntarily, for economic reasons, and one involuntary—also for economic reasons.
Hilton was that scarce diamond in the rough that championship teams are made out of—even if the Steelers never even won a single playoff game in his four seasons here. But to find such a versatile and high-performing contributor out of a college free agent whom you pick up off the street as a rookie after getting dumped by two other teams is really quite remarkable.
That is the story of how Hilton first got to Pittsburgh, but he took control of the narrative from that point forward and quickly established himself as one of the true do-it-all players in the NFL. In his first season alone, he intercepted two passes, recorded four sacks, and registered 10 tackles for loss.
That’s a hell of a stat line for a nickel defender, but it’s one that became pretty reflective of what he’s capable of delivering. And while some thought he would actually fetch even more on the open market, I still think his contract is reflective of the fact that he is valuable and was viewed as valuable.
The insult to the injury, of course, is the fact that he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, though you can hardly blame him. This isn’t like James Harrison signing with the New England Patriots after his relationship with the team eroded. This is a young guy capitalizing on his talent to make bank—a guy who had been looking for a new deal for two years already.