Film Room: Mike Hilton Solid In Slot, Special Teams

It would seem by now that Pittsburgh Steelers first-year cornerback Mike Hilton is a favorite of many, even if for a not insignificant number of his supporters the impetus to back him was driven by the desire to see William Gay bumped out of the nickel cornerback role.

Still, the former undrafted free agent has been ascending since the spring and has done nothing to suggest that he shouldn’t be in his role through the first two games, in fact seeing an even bigger share of the slot snaps on Sunday.

He was quite active in the game, credited with nine tackles, though he has yet to register a pass defensed. According to Pro Football Focus, he has been targeted nine times in the slot, giving up eight receptions, but for little damage.

One play early in the second quarter is an example of that. On first and 10, he was targeted on a dig route out of the slot, but he was able to close quickly. While he gave up the reception for nine yards, he immediately made the tackle.

One of the qualities that got him attention during the preseason was his blitzing, and he has remained effective in the games that count. He helped end that drive with a third-down blitz on which he put a good hit on the quarterback and forced an incompletion.

Run support has also been an important factor in his ascendance, and he showed that on the first play of the second half, charging from out of the slot and wrestling the running back down from behind, showing good pursuit on a six-yard run.

The Vikings tried to convert on a fake punt after looking as though they would go three-and-out, but the Steelers were able to stop them, in part because of Hilton’s ready recognition, racing into the backfield to pressure the punter as he threw, putting a big hit on him.

After the Steelers’ subsequent possession, which resulted in a field goal, Hilton recorded the tackle on the ensuing kickoff, sending the returner out of bounds at the 18-yard line.

Two plays into the drive that followed, he put on display his coverage instincts, diagnosing the route combination to break on the inside slot receiver and bring him down immediately for a four-yard reception.

Despite his size being a routine point of emphasis, it has not yet been much of a hindrance to him, as he showed in tackling the Vikings’ big tight end late in the game coming over the middle of the field after a one-yard gain.

In just this sampling, Hilton was targeted three times, giving up three receptions, but for only one successful play by the offense. This is pretty indicative of how he has been so far, though I would hope to see more successful play on the ball going forward.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • falconsaftey43

    He’s showing quick reaction and great tackling. Those quicks will start letting him get his hands on the ball sooner or later. What a find.

  • Iulo

    he is playing great… once Sutton is healthy there will be more fun.
    hope also Dangerfield comes back once he is healthy..

  • Douglas Andrews

    Agreed the turnovers will come for him. Gotta like the fact that he might give up the reception but takes down the receiver without giving up much YAC. He’s developing into quite the slot CB. Solid work so far for the UDFA and the front office deserves some credit for finding him.

  • Andrew

    RE: The first video – wow, look at Haden (I believe) getting burned by the double move at the top of the screen. Surprised they didn’t come back to that and take a deep shot…of course Heyward and company weren’t in the mood to allow Keenum to throw a longer developing route.

  • steelburg

    I am admittedly not the biggest fan of Hilton’s. But I do think he has looked good so far especially in the area Mike Tomlin loves the most which is keeping everything in front of you and making the tackle and minimizing YAC. He is a poor man’s Will Gay when he came back over from the Cardinals, without the speed, and knowledge of the game that Gay had. But the knowledge will come with more experience. In the words of Denny Green I will still hold off on crowning him due to the QB’S we have played against. But I am impressed thus far.

  • VaDave

    I see it, but the ball was already out when the second move occurred. I will agree a revisitation with a pump fake could have deadly consequences.

  • Andrew

    Yeah I kept trying to see if he “let him go” because the ball was coming out already (and obviously not to his guy), but he was focused on his man and just lost him. This was actually one of the rare times he had space and time to hold it for another half second – glad he didnt!!

  • John Noh

    Promising. Seems as if the Steelers might have gotten the slot corner from Ole Miss after all.

  • John Pennington

    He’s playing good ball deserved to make the team and his play so far has proved that.Love his tackling that was missing last season.

  • Steelerfan4lifeinAZ

    I really like Hilton.. I’m excited what he brings to the defense. Quickness and instinct you can’t teach and he already has shown that. With more playing time, he will be a solid Slot Corner. I predict that he will have a pick 6 this season. With his closing speed and quick reaction there is no way he doesn’t get a pick 6 in the next few weeks. I’m saying it now..

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Last line.. exactly. He looks promising and his coverage should tighten for him as he gets more experience; unless he can’t, which would change things.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    It’s just refreshing to see another corner besides Gay play with some physicality and intensity, isn’t it?

  • Mister Wirez

    The kid plays fast and smart, plus he reacts and tackles well. What more could you ask for. I’m convinced now this is Gay’s last year.

  • Eric C. Brown

    I’ve noticed this. I was surprised he wasn’t mentioned with the ‘Winners’ after last week’s game.

  • SfSteeler

    damn his llines are quick, straight and hes a tackling machine…so, we lost Golson and found his roomate, ill takit!

  • Jim Foles

    Standing 5 – 10 yards off the los will cost us with the Brady type qb’s..

  • Michael Mosgrove

    He’s good, but his coverage skills lack. He tackles the catch, but he need to get a hand up in the lane to prevent.

  • GoSteelerz

    Been a fan of his since I saw his college tape, so glad he’s with us and doing well! So far his game has translated nicely into the pros. In building a championship team, it’s not just about hitting on the draft picks, you gotta hit on some UDFA’s too. Hilton is looking more and more like one of the pieces to the championship puzzle. Rooting for him to continue doing well!

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Yep, he seems to be everything we were hoping for from Golson

  • MC

    “tackle the catch” something Hilton is doing well.
    His diagnosis on the 2nd last gif was really impressive and he’s not afraid to stick his nose in to make tackles. Also he wraps up the legs well which is what you need to do being a smaller guy.

    I know its early but thank you Hilton from lessening the blow of having drafted Golson