Mike Hilton hasn’t exactly been a demon in coverage this year—he’s only credited with a single pass defensed. He doesn’t have a sack, either, and just one quarterback hit. But he does have six tackles for loss. A quick look suggests that the Cincinnati Bengals are not using him in the box as much as the Pittsburgh Steelers did, using him more in coverage.
But he’s also playing more than he ever has, hitting 90 percent of the snaps in a game twice this year. And he’s already done plenty this season to help the Bengals beat his former team—both on and off the field. His teammates made it no secret that he came in fired up for their Week 2 matchup.
“It’s a good win, just because, Mike Hilton came in with the energy just because he came in with the energy from the jump with us”, rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase said on Wednesday. “We felt his energy during that week. Just making sure we stay on top of it, knowing this is a tough team to play against every year, and just having to execute when they come here”.
After he helped beat the Steelers early in the season, Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd talked about how Hilton addressed the team beforehand. “He was just saying how basically, how he didn’t feel valued by them“, he said. “You feel like you mean a lot to the team and organization and they just turn around and stab you in the back. I mean, I don’t know what the situation was and he didn’t say that in his exact words, but we understood the message that was pretty much how it is”.
That, of course, is not pretty much how it was, and frankly, we don’t know if he actually even said anything exactly like that, much less if he actually meant it. Though, in truth, there have been no real indications that the Steelers, who were in a bad way with the salary cap, made any significant move to try to re-sign him.
Whether he feels a grudge or not is immaterial, and if he does, it’s certainly within his rights. He’s also perfectly permitted to try to inform on his former team, if possible, and Chase this week let it be known that that’s been there, done that. “He told us already. He gave us a heads up pretty early”, he said, when asked if he’d given the wide receivers any pointers on the tendencies of Pittsburgh’s defensive backs.
That defensive backfield will hopefully include the reinsertions of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback Joe Haden, both of whom missed Sunday’s loss in Los Angeles. The former was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, activated today. The latter has dealt with a foot injury, but returned to practice as a limited participant yesterday.