Connect with us

2024 NFL Draft

Former Steelers CB Target Mike Sainristil Thought Pittsburgh Would Draft Him

Mike Sainristil thought that the Pittsburgh Steelers would end up drafting him, but he went just one pick before them.



Pittsburgh Steelers

When the Pittsburgh Steelers take an interest in someone, it’s not hard to see it coming. And in the case of Michigan’s Mike Sainristil, it was all far too predictable. The Steelers met with the impressive Michigan slot cornerback before his pro day on Friday, one of a few teams to do so, according to Tony Pauline. But Sainristil did not end up joining Pittsburgh, getting sniped one spot in front of them by the Washington Commanders.

Sainristil is only 5-foot-10, 182 pounds. Being like Jordan was never going to be in the cards. But he set out to be like another Mike: Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton. His offseason testing blew him up on the scouting trial and is contributing to Sainristil’s meteoric rise. But that could have been the right fit for the Steelers if he is at 51st overall. Sainristil even thought he would be a Steeler.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was not expecting it to be the Commanders. I thought I was going to the Steelers at 51. But I felt my phone vibrating, I looked down, there was a Virginia number. I’m like, ‘Man, who the heck from Virginia’s calling me right now?'” Sainristil said.

Hilton was even smaller than Sainristil when he went through the draft process and came out unselected in 2016, checking in at 5-foot-9 and 178 pounds. But he found a way to turn that size into a big impact, becoming a huge part of the Pittsburgh defense in his four seasons in black and gold.

Since Hilton left for free agency in 2021, the Steelers have yet to really be able to replace the production that he provided in that role as a run-down slot cornerback. A combination of Cam Sutton, Art Maulet, Chandon Sullivan and Patrick Peterson have tried to plug that gap over the last three seasons, but none have provided the type of total package that Hilton was in terms of his ability to play the run and the pass, rush the quarterback and get back in coverage.

Sainristil grew up a New England Patriots fan in Everett, Massachusetts, but said he always admired those Steelers teams with players like Antonio Brown and Santonio Holmes. He liked those players because in high school, Sainristil was a receiver — and a good one.

The three-star prospect was the second-ranked player in his state in the Rivals Class of 2019. As a junior in 2021, he had his best season, catching 22 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns. A few months later, he was a cornerback. And now, he will play with the Commanders, and the Steelers do not have a clear plan at slot cornerback, either.