Making The 53: A How-To By Mike Hilton

If there were just one player from the deep roster that was the most intriguing to get a look at tonight, I think that many would have said Mike Hilton, the first-year former undrafted free agent cornerback who spent some time on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad late last year.

A former teammate of Senquez Golson’s at Ole Miss, the 5’9” defensive back failed to crack a 53-man roster during his rookie season, but his preseason debut with the Steelers was a textbook example of how to do just that.

While it would require some reviewing in order to recap everything that he managed to do during the night against the Giants, Hilton was active on both defense and special teams. In fact, he recorded three tackles on special teams, by my count, at least.

From memory, he induced a fair catch on the opening punt from Jordan Berry. He made the tackle from the far side of the field on the second punt. On a third punt, he split a pair of vice jammers to get the initial pressure on the returner, and when the ball was fumbled, he recovered it.

In the second half, he also recorded two tackles on kickoffs, including a good stick on the opening kickoff. After the Steelers scored later in the third quarter, he was there down the field following a good return by the Giants to clean up and minimize the gain.

Interestingly enough, Hilton’s biggest contributions on the defensive side of the ball came as a blitzer. From what I was able to gather from the live broadcast, he recorded three total pressures on probably not man more total blitzes than that.

Toward the end of the first half, Hilton was sent on a blitz on third and six from the Steelers’ 24-yard line. He was unblocked, but he showed good closing speed to finish the play, recording the sack for a loss of 10 yards. That forced the Giants to attempt a 52-yard field goal, though it was successful.

Later on in the game, Hilton had another pressure on third down in which he jarred the running back trying to block him and then slipping by to get into the backfield, forcing the quarterback to throw errant. He got another pressure on a fourth-down play to force a bad pass late in the game.

The first-year man recorded three total tackles on defense as well, including one following an 11-yard pass on third and 13. That set up a fourth-and two in which he came up the middle to hold the runner short of the first to induce a turnover on downs.

Still later, on the Giants’ final possession, he did get beaten for a first-down reception on fourth and four, but he showed some tenacity to stay in and make the tackle. He also slipped while defending an inside screen pass. His overall performance on defense will obviously require deeper examination, but frankly, his special-teams performance alone could get him on the 53-man roster.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Ace

    Give him Golson’s jersey number and let’s pretend like he was their second round pick. Same size and school after all.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    nah he can keep 40. dont want golson’s cursed number.

  • James Churchwell

    He may have been on the practice squad last season, but I say give that man a helmet, put him on the 53 man roster…Any objections?

  • Ace

    None here. Let’s see how he plays next week. He should get the start over Gay IMO. Rest Gay, give Mike a start, if he plays like this again, wrap him up for the rest of the PS.

  • T R

    Yea Matthew that bout sums up his very good night… awesome night

  • Matthew Marczi

    Right now he is clearly in the driver’s seat in the competition for the 6th roster spot at cornerback. Perhaps even the 5th guy.

  • Henry Clay DuQuesnay

    Both Mike Hilton and Senquez Golson played hard nose “Steeler” football in the Ole Miss Land Shark Defense (Albeit, Golson is/was THE big time ball hawk at Safety). Surprised they didn’t show up the first time around.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    yeah as much as I want golson to make the team I just can’t help but cheer for this kid

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Didn’t he make the tackle on a 4th down run late in the game to stop the back just short as well?.

  • James Churchwell

    Hey Mr. Hunt, I was thinking the samething.

  • James Churchwell

    Yes,yes, yes…No need in taking too many more chances of him getting injured before the regular season…give Golson more reps,……Hey how about that guy that wears #90 TJ..looking good tonight.

  • James Churchwell

    He most certainly did. I got a feeling????. Just saying. 🙂

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, I mentioned that at the end of the second-to-last paragraph. Arguably his most telling play of the night, showing the ability to play above his size.

  • Taylor Williams

    I would say he’s in the drivers seat for the 4th spot or maybe even slot down the road.
    Let’s see what he does from here though.

  • Matthew Marczi

    In terms of playing time, yeah, with Sutton on the shelf he could even potentially be in play at the number four role at the moment. Carnell Lake even mentioned the idea of the dime back when talking about him recently.

  • Douglas Andrews

    You have to wonder if his ability as a gunner will affect someone like DHB making the roster?

  • MC

    hilton came up big

  • thomas hmmmm

    Josh Muaro had a better preseason than that and didnt make the 53 on an equally bad dl.

  • John Noh

    I am irrationally upset at Senquez Golson, even though I know this is not his fault, this injury situation. So I choose to look at the positive and hope that Hilton can make the team and represent Ole Miss after all.

  • Brendon Glad

    Many excellent Steelers have paved their way through ST’s….
    Off the top of my head, Yancey Thigpen, Hines Ward, Brett Kiesel, and James Harrison come to mind.
    That said, if the standard is Brady…then the DB’s as good tacklers means nothing to him. He’ll take 4-5 yards 15 plays in a row and get 6…while throwing off the Steelers offensive rhythm in the process.
    Gotta intercept balls…or at least show that to him on film… if they want a Lombardi.

  • Brendon Glad

    I’m hoping that Golson at CB takes a similar path as Lawrence Timmons did at LB .
    He was a guy who in his 1st 2 years seemed to be “fragile”.
    Turns out it was just bad luck…and Timmons turned into an excellent and durable player for the Steelers. I’m hoping that is how it goes for Golson.

  • John Noh

    The better comparison might be to Greg Lloyd. Timmons didn’t play a lot the first two years but he wasn’t IRed both years either.

  • Brendon Glad

    Yeah, good point.