The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of those teams who has to frustrate the heck out their rivals. It just seems like the organization has a knack for finding talented players and simply turning the page.
The perfect example of this is when the team drafted Senquez Golson in the second round. The hope was they had found their slot cornerback for years to come, but what they received was an injury prone player who never stepped foot in an actual NFL stadium for even a preseason game.
As opponents smirked and likely did a fist pump over the Steelers’ trials and tribulations, the team then picked up another Ole Miss cornerback who went undrafted, Mike Hilton, and gave him a future/reserve contract.
What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.
Hilton played so well throughout training camp and the preseason, the team had no option but to keep him on the team’s 53-man roster. But he wasn’t just a player who made the roster, he was their first cornerback off the bench in their nickel sub packages, and in today’s NFL this player is practically a starter.
Those who followed the team in 2017 know how good Hilton was for the Steelers, but Pro Football Focus has selected Hilton as one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL today. Hilton was recently highlighted in an article on slot cornerbacks where he was among names like Chris Harris Jr., Byron Jones, Patrick Robinson and Kendall Fuller.
Take a look at what they had to say about Hilton:
Mike Hilton, Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite being an undrafted player and largely unheralded going into 2017, Hilton became one of the most valuable players on a Steelers’ team that earned a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. An example of a player who was predominantly a slot player in college, Hilton excelled at many of the intangible things a nickel player must do: generating 17 total pressures and finishing first among cornerbacks in run-stop percentage. He was no slouch in coverage, either, allowing just 53 yards into his coverage from Week 12 on.
Just look at some of those statistics:
- Ranked first among cornerbacks in run-stop percentage
- Allowed just 53-yards in coverage from Week 12 on
Those aren’t just flash in the pan statistics, those are statistics for a player who is on the rise. While Hilton might not be able to flex out to the outside, like Cameron Sutton can, he owns the inside...and that works just fine for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hilton finished the 2017 season with the following statistics:
- 2 interceptions
- 6 pass defenses
- 1 forced fumble
- 4 sacks
- 42 total tackles
Not too shabby for a player who was left on the scrap heap of the NFL, right? After the Steelers lost an Ole Miss cornerback when Golson couldn’t stay healthy, they gained another one in Hilton.
What does 2018 have in store for Hilton? After a full season of regular playing time under his belt, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Hilton get even better at what he does and become an elite slot cornerback in the league.