Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the NFL this season.
On the verge of taking a job at Foot Locker prior to signing with the Steelers practice squad last December, Hilton made the most of a futures contract and won a place on the 53-man roster. Since, he’s capitalized on every opportunity he’s been given and has become one of the most integral parts of a Steelers defense that has impressed.
Through six games, he’s playing in 55.2 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and has surpassed veteran William Gay in the slot as the team’s primary as the team’s primary nickelback. And he hasn’t just been some warm body inside either.
Hilton has 19 total tackles on the year and has been dynamic off the edge as a blitzer, registering a sack against the Baltimore Ravens earlier this season. He also recorded an interception against the Ravens and is ranked No. 24 among all qualifying cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus.
His 82.3 grade from PFF is the best in the Steelers secondary. However, with that sort of performance comes a lot of attention and the Steelers secret weapon can’t possibly stay a secret for long.
Most would argue that, in NFL circles, Hilton hasn’t been a secret in weeks and possibly since the preseason. Yet, the Ole Miss product who spent time with the Jaguars and Patriots after going undrafted in 2016 continues making plays.
From here, teams have two options. Show him the ultimate respect of shying away from him whenever they can or begin challenging him on a regular basis.
It seems a little early for him to get the Darrelle Revis treatment so expect to see teams try scheming their top receivers into the slot on occasion to see if they can take advantage of him. The knock on Hilton throughout his career has been his size (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) but that’s less of an issue inside where the receivers he faces are often similarly slight.
Teams might want to see if they can move bigger receivers inside to try to isolate him and create a mismatch. If they have success, maybe that means he’s been exposed.
However, Hilton has answered every challenge and if teams do begin scheming with the intent of specifically testing him and he holds his own, it will become evident that we’ve got a burgeoning young star on our hands.
The post Pittsburgh Steelers defensive weapon won’t stay secret for long appeared first on All 22.
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