Are you still not on the Mike Hilton bandwagon? If not, why? The Pittsburgh Steelers young cornerback has had a strong showing so far not only during training camp, but in the team’s first preseason game as well.
On the heels of Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake signing the praises of Hilton last week that included him comparing him to two former cornerbacks that he personally played with during his own career in Pittsburgh, defensive coordinator Keith Butler also talked very positively about the Mississippi product and former undrafted free agent during his Thursday morning interview on Steelers Nation Radio.
“We’re very pleased with Mike and what he’s done and what he’s shown,” Butler said of Hilton.” He’s done a good job on the slot inside and he’s a good blitzer. He’s got a good feel for blitzing and a good understanding of our defense and we’re kind of excited to have him.”
Hilton did indeed do a good job in the slot and on special teams in the team’s preseason opener against the New York Giants as he registered four total tackles that included a sack via a blitz off the edge. Additionally, one of his tackles came on a fourth and short run and he also recovered a fumble on a punt. In short, he was hard not to notice Friday night.
Hilton’s opportunity to shine for the Steelers during the offseason is obviously a result of young Steelers cornerbacks Senquez Golson and Cameron Sutton both missing extensive time during training camp with hamstring injuries and Butler was quick to point that fact out Thursday morning.
“Some guy’s failure is another guys dadgum reward and not necessarily failure but being out of practice and somebody else has got to take up those reps,” Butler explained. “And if they take up those reps and they do well, then obviously you’re going, ‘hey, you know we’re going to see what they can do in a game.’ If they can do something in a game and you sit out too long, that’s the way the NFL is. Somebody will take your positron and that’s not trying to threaten anybody, or anything like that, that’s just the nature of the game.”
The Steelers will keep five cornerbacks at a minimum this year and more than likely six in total. Assuming Sutton makes it back from his injury in the next few weeks, he’ll obviously be on the 53-man roster along with Artie Burns, Ross Cockrell, William Gay and Coty Sensabaugh. That sixth and final cornerback spot has Hilton’s name written all over it right now, barring an injury. Should the team wind up keeping seven cornerbacks in total, rookie draft pick Brian Allen is likely to get that spot, but I think he might be headed for the practice squad to start the season.