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Mike Hilton’s Importance to the Steelers Can’t be Understated

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The Steelers have a weapon on the defensive side of the ball that few teams have. That special weapon is nickel cornerback Mike Hilton. With one of the most unique skillsets at the position in the NFL, Hilton gives Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler more schematic options than they could ever imagine. The Steelers found him by signing him as a likely camp body, but Hilton proved to be that and more. It is not just the come-up story that makes Hilton such an impressive player, but it is how he continues to get better each and every season.

Since his inception into the NFL in 2017, Hilton leads all cornerbacks in tackles for loss with 26. That signifies his playstyle about as well as any stat will. However, since 2017, Hilton also leads cornerbacks in QB Hits with 22 QB Hits in that time span. His fast start to 2020 is nothing new for Hilton. This is no contract season fad. Hilton has been this guy since he first won the job and he has never changed.

The vaunted Steelers pass rush has the highest pressure rate in the NFL entering Sunday. Not only that, but they lead the NFL in blitz rate and pass rush win rate. All of this is pertinent to the discussion of Hilton as a weapon. Yes, the Steelers have a fantastic duo of outside linebackers and trio of defensive lineman. They even have one of the best blitzing off-ball linebackers in football in Vince Williams. Not many teams have all of those pieces, but some can match it to a degree.

However, what none of those teams have is an elite blitzing slot cornerback. It is not a stretch to say that Hilton is the best blitzer and run defender out of the slot in football. In fact, maybe the only player that even comes close at this time is Kenny Moore of the Colts. Hilton’s ability to time the snap, be a sure tackler and still take on blocks from guys that are sometimes nearly a foot taller than him are incredible.

The Steelers use Hilton as a weapon. Even when he feigns pressure, it can open up opportunities for other guys to blitz. The key sack on Jeff Driskel to ice that game was because Hilton showed blitz off the left side, the Broncos slid the protection left, and as such Terrell Edmunds came off the right side free for the sack. At times it is almost like the Steelers are running a 4-3  defense with Hilton acting as the strongside linebacker. By acting as that guy, teams just have to adjust their scheme and gameplan a great deal for him.

The threat of Hilton takes some pressure of Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and Stephon Tuitt. If they decide to focus on the talented pass rushers, Hilton has proven he will eat all day. Hilton has no problem living in an opposing team’s backfield. He plays with a fiery play style and never lets his size dictate his performance of capabilities. Seriously, how many 5-foot-8 slot cornerbacks are taking on tight ends and pullers, beating them, and still making the tackle?

Hilton does more than just be a fantastic blitzer, too. At times the Steelers will have him operate as a safety in their Cover 3 scheme that allows Minkah Fitzpatrick to work over the middle of the field. As a cornerback, he obviously has to be decent in coverage too. Some pundits may dock Hilton on his coverage, but he is adequate in this area. Just like his blitzing, he fights and claws at the catch point and will make plays. There is his fair share of lowlights in that area, but that is not where he makes his money anyways. Hilton’s excellent ball skills can make up for that as well.

The Steelers have decisions to make this offseason in regards to their contracts. So many key players are up to be paid this offseason with an uncertain cap number. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Cam Sutton, James Conner, and more are just the tip of the iceberg. In that group is Hilton, who has been a stalwart in the Steelers secondary for the past four seasons.

Going out on a bold limb, even with cap restrictions, the Steelers may just find a way to get a contract with Hilton done. Why? HIlton is irreplaceable and too valuable.

Steelers

Steelers RB Trey Edmunds Shares Love of Reading with Local Students

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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Trey Edmunds has been a lifelong lover of reading, a passion he shared with local students on Tuesday’s celebration of Read Across America Day.

Edmunds joined students at Pittsburgh Faison for a virtual assembly and read New York Times best seller, What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada.

“I am blessed and humbled to be amongst you guys today and to represent another part of the community and be able to read to you,” Edmunds told Steelers.com. “I am so happy to be here today. What I do want to say is I was in some of the same positions as you guys. I grew up listening to people come back and read to me. Some of those same people I have been in contact with many years later. Some of those same things they have read to me, I have had the privilege of reading to some of the people I mentor, some of the young people in my life, whether it’s cousins, nephews. I am extremely happy today.”

Edmunds also surprised the student with a copy of his own book My Brother’s Keeper – What This Means to Me…, written alongside with his brothers Terrell and Tremaine. Terrell is a safety for Pittsburgh, while Tremaine is a standout linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.

Edmunds’ love of reading came from his mother Felicia, who as an educator, always championed the important of the skill.

“My mother is an elementary school teacher, so she had me doing all of that stuff when I was in high school, college, as a matter of fact I have to go to her school to read for the month of March,” he told Steelers.com. “It keeps me on my toes, attentive. I am a big reader myself, so when I get the opportunity to read to kids, I like that type of interaction.”

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Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?

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Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.

He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?

Do you believe in Zach Banner? Comment below with why or why not.

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Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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