The vast majority of those who come and go through the Pittsburgh Steelers’ facility at some point during their career at least tend to acknowledge that there was something different about their time there that sets the organization apart from what you will find around the rest of the NFL.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the ideal structure for every player or that it outweighs other factors, like say, oh I don’t know, fully guaranteed money, second-year guarantees, and things of that nature. But it is, for many, if not most, something of value that is to be taken into consideration when it comes time to do business.
And Mike Hilton has been waiting five years to do business. A former college free agent out of Ole Miss, he toiled on practice squads his rookie season in 2016 with three different teams, the final team being Pittsburgh. He opened the following season as the starting nickel and never lost the job.
Now he is set to become likely one of the highest-best pure slot defenders in NFL history—and especially insofar as that is the case, it’s probably not going to be with the Steelers. Money matters, it simply can’t not matter in our culture. But he still sees the ‘Steeler Way’ and would like to remain a part of it if it’s feasible.
“Just starting with the Rooneys and their family tradition and how much they put into the organization, to get it to where it is to this point”, Hilton said of the uniqueness of the Steelers organization during an interview yesterday on SiriusXM. “It starts with them and trickles down to the coaches, the staff, the trainers, players”.
“Everybody knows when you become a Pittsburgh Steeler, it means much more”, he continued. “It’s all about winning and trying to get that Lombardi Trophy. Their culture is second to none, and I’ve enjoyed my last four years here. If possible, I would love to be back. We’ll see in the next couple days”.
The Steelers empowered Hilton to become a featured player in their system and to fully exploit his skill set, allowing him to play to his well-rounded strengths by playing him in the box quite a bit, and giving him plenty of opportunities to rush the passer.
That’s why he has 7 interceptions, 9.5 sacks, and 30 tackles for loss over the course of the past four seasons, a stat line literally owned only by Hilton since he entered the league. If you lower the interception threshold down by one, you do pick up Jamie Collins, but it goes to show what a uniquely versatile player he is.