It is imperative for the success of any team to be able to have some degree of success in discovering talent with a minimum of resources, whether it’s late-round draft picks, undrafted talent, or cheap free agents who lacked an opportunity with their previous team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have gone up and down in terms of this sort of acquisition of talent, though have had particular success along the offensive line during the Mike Munchak era, developing Alejandro Villanueva, Chris Hubbard, B.J. Finney, and Matt Feiler, among others—Fred Johnson, Patrick Morris, and now J.C. Hassenauer as well.
Villanueva could probably be described as a home run—he is, after all, a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle who protected Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside ably for six years—but if there is another, then it has to be nickel cornerback Mike Hilton, who like Villanueva is now on the cusp of cashing in handsomely in free agency.
The two, of course, are working on different pay scales, but both are due to make impressive sums relative to their position. Still, not everything is about money, and that is something Hilton addressed during his recent appearance on SiriusXM Radio.
“I definitely want to win. At the end of the day, it’s about winning Super Bowls”, he said. “Anybody can get contracts, but people are gonna remember those teams that go down in history when they’re winning Super Bowls. Knowing that that’s a main goal of mine, that’s definitely gonna play into my decision. Of course some other things are gonna tie into it, but definitely, winning is at the top of the list”.
That was an answer in response to a question about what his priority list would be like in the even that he should leave the Steelers, but presumably is also relevant to whether or not he would want to stay put in Pittsburgh, where he developed.
Does that mean he’s going to take a significantly worse deal in order to maximize his chances of winning a Super Bowl or two? Of course not—at least, it’s not very likely, and I certainly wouldn’t bet on it. But there is a difference between an athlete looking to maximize his pay and a football player who wants to achieve the ultimate goal of a team sport by winning a championship.
And I do believe that Hilton is very much motivated by the desire to win a championship. I fully expect him to land with a team that has at least a chance of contending. You probably won’t find him in Atlanta or Carolina or Houston, or even Detroit.