While the majority of the discussion in the national media pertaining to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ free agents concerns the likes of wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and pass rusher Bud Dupree, the hottest commodity they may possess, even if he doesn’t command the largest salary, could well be slot cornerback Mike Hilton.
At least that’s what John Clayton seemed to imply, during a radio appearance on the Poni and Mueller Show on 93.7 The Fan. Pittsburgh has a large number of notable unrestricted free agents hitting the market this time around. Could he have the most suitors?
“There are so many teams right now that really like Hilton”, Clayton said on 93.7 The Fan earlier this week. “He’s becoming a real popular item right now, and that’s gonna be tough with the bidding. A normal slot guy is gonna make around $8-9 million, and he might be able to command that. That may be tough for them to be able to do”.
A four-year veteran and a former undrafted free agent, Hilton kicked around on practice squads during his rookie year out of Ole Miss in 2016 before commanding a roster spot with the Steelers in 2017. He has been the team’s starting slot cornerback since then.
During that time, he has produced seven interceptions, 9.5 sacks, and 30 tackles for loss, a somewhat eclectic group of statistics that displays the diversity of Hilton’s skill set, which makes him a rare commodity in a slot cornerback.
That is precisely why teams would be hot on him, because of his ability to command a variety of assignments, whether it’s playing in man-to-man coverage, setting the edge in the run, or rushing the quarterback. Pretty much the only things you wouldn’t ask him to do is play along the defensive line or as an outside cornerback on a full-time basis.
Even while missing four games in 2020 due to injury, he still managed to post 51 tackles with eight for loss, as well as three interceptions and three sacks, seven passes defensed, a forced fumble, and another two fumbles recovered.
Earlier this week, Hilton said that if possible, he would love to stay with the Steelers, but while he values the opportunity to be in a place that gives him a chance to win, financial considerations will obviously be a big factor.
Through his first four seasons, he has earned just a bit over $5 million in total, and $3,259,000 of that came last season under a second-round restricted free agent tender. He should be safely expected to command more than his total career earnings annually for the foreseeable future on his next deal in a week.