When the Steelers began to search for a new wide receivers coach this offseason, they sent their fanbase on a bit of a roller coaster. From South Carolina Offensive Coordinator Bryan McClendon to former Steelers receiver Jericho Cotchery, the Steelers conducted a thorough search. But it was former NFL receiver and Redskins wide receiver coach Ike Hilliard that got the call. Hilliard comes to the Steelers with eight years of NFL coaching experience with the Dolphins, Bills, and Redskins.
But before he even started coaching, Hilliard was a star receiver at Florida and an NFL wide receiver for over a decade. Hilliard was a consensus All-American in 1996 and the 7th overall pick in the NFL Draft in 1997. As an NFL receiver, Hilliard had an impressively long career. He spent eight seasons with the Giants and then four more with the Buccaneers. During his career, he racked up over 546 receptions, 6,397 receiving yards, and 35 touchdowns before coaching.
As a coach, Hilliard has an impressive track record to boast. Most importantly, however, Hilliard has a ton of experience working with young receivers. Some of the guys he has helped develop over the years include Robert Woods, Pierre Garcon, and most recently, dynamic rookie receiver Terry McLaurin.
A PROMISING TENURE IN WASHINGTON
It is that history of young receivers thriving under his watch that likely the Steelers to hire Hilliard. In Washington, Hilliard oversaw not just McLaurin, but also the development of young receivers Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims, both of whom came on late in the year and clearly improve their standing throughout the season.
McLaurin, in particular, had almost 1,000 receiving yards in his first NFL season. The 23-year old receiver proved to be one of the best technicians out of that class and Hilliard did nothing but help him reach his potential even more. Harmon, the team’s sixth-round pick, had 365 receiving yards in his first campaign.
Earlier on in his tenure in Washington, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson had successful tenures with the team with Hilliard being their coach. He oversaw two 1000 yard seasons from Jackson and one from Garcon. The one blemish on Hilliard’s record comes here, where he failed to develop Josh Doctson into a true first-round worthy receiver. Doctson has never had more than 600 receiving yards in a season.
COACHING THE YOUNG GUNS IN BUFFALO
Hilliard was only the wide receivers coach in Buffalo for a year, but he had an impact. Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Stevie Johnson all were there as his pupils that season. Both Goodwin and Woods, who were in their rookie seasons, combied for over 1000 receiving yards under Hilliard. Both of them would go on to be productive NFL receivers, which looks good on Hilliard’s resume.
Johnson had a down year due to some injury woes, but he was his technical self and maintained form all year while under Hilliard. But Johnson’s experience here in Buffalo will be similar to the one in Pittsburgh. Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and JuJu Smith-Schuster are all still young, developing receivers. That is not even accounting for a potential rookie coming in as well.
Hilliard was hired due to his impressive resume with young receivers. And clearly, he has an eye for talent given who he has helped draft and push through. That is much like Darryl Drake did for Diontae Johnson last draft season. Look for Hilliard to be a boon to the staff. He should help the young Steelers receivers continue to improve.