The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is good. Who am I kidding? The Steelers’ defense is a top tier unit in the NFL. After just two games, check out some of these team statistics for Keith Butler’s defense:
Team Defense after 2 games played:
Yards per game: 305 (2nd)
Pass Yards per game: 238.5 (14th)
Rushing Yards per game: 66.5 (1st)
Points Per Game: 18.5 (6th)
Sacks: 10 (2nd)
Takeaways: 4 (T-2)
The defense is in elite status, and is now preparing for the Houston Texans coming to Heinz Field in Week 3. When facing a player like Deshaun Watson, you need all hands on deck, and putting pressure on the quarterback isn’t just difficult, it is paramount.
The Steelers have 10 sacks so far this year, and one of the most disruptive players on the defense has been a player not many would name, if asked. Not T.J. Watt. Not Bud Dupree. Not even Cam Heyward.
No, one of the most disruptive defenders for the Steelers to date has been slot cornerback Mike Hilton.
On Thursday, during his weekly press conference via Zoom, defensive coordinator Keith Butler talked about Hilton, and how he has an innate ability to blitz the quarterback and wreak havoc.
“It’s a lot of his innate ability and the times he’s done it. We had him do that quite a bit since he’s been here, so he has got a good feel for it, when he’s going.” Butler said. “When he’s got the count, what’s going on with the clock, how much time he’s got there and all that stuff. He uses all that.
“Plus, it’s hard for me to describe unless you’ve been out on the field. There’s body language from different people. It may be the slot guy. It might be the offensive tackle. It might the running back in the back field. A lot of times people can’t help themselves and look at certain people or they look to where they are going or they look to see who they have to pick up and stuff like that. You can learn a lot if you watch film and you’ve done it a lot. He has experience of doing it a lot, so he’s pretty good with what he does.”
As Hilton prepares for free agency after the 2020 regular season, he is proving his worth both to the Steelers and the rest of the NFL at the same time. Showing his versatility, Hilton is a willing participant in every aspect of defense. He doesn’t shy away from contact, playing the line of scrimmage and especially raising his hand to voluntarily blitz the opposition.
When Butler was asked about Hilton and Vince Williams always wanting to blitz, he doesn’t blame them at all.
“I would raise my hand all the time, too. I don’t blame them.” Butler said. “Because as much as you do it, the more you do it, the more of a feel you get in terms of when they are going to snap the ball. How does that come? You look at the play clock some. You just get a feel for it out on the field some. We’re going to get hard counts. That’s what people do to combat pressure. We’re going to get hard counts. They’re going to try to call us offsides and all that stuff. Our guys do a pretty good job of keying the ball. I think we have to keep doing that if we continue to blitz as much as we have.”
When referring the Steelers’ blitzing in the first two weeks of the regular season, Butler has been calling pressure early and often. But will that change vs. Watson and the Texans? Those who have followed the Steelers closely know Butler will always bring heat on the opposing quarterback, and Hilton very well might be the man tasked with keeping Watson in check.
Hilton is setting himself for a big pay day, either with the Steelers or with another NFL team, and as the value of slot cornerbacks increases so does Hilton’s future earnings. Not too bad for a player who was cast aside as an undrafted free agent from Ole Miss, right?
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for their Week 3 game vs. the Texans this Sundy at Heinz Field.