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From starstruck, to shining on his own

Posted Mar 22, 2018

Mike Hilton quickly adapted to the talent around him and fit right in.

Starstruck: When you first walk into a locker room as a young player, especially one loaded with veteran talent that you have watched play, no doubt you get a little wide-eyed. That was exactly what happened for Hilton, who wasn’t a rookie last season, but was in his first year playing in the NFL.

“I can honestly say I was still starstruck by some people,” said Hilton. “You see Antonio Brown, Ben (Roethlisberger), Le’Veon (Bell), guys you watched growing up. You are still star struck. Meeting those guys, talking to them, they are regular guys. They took me under their wing from the offensive side surprisingly. I was blessed to be around those guys.

“They would talk to me, telling me how to approach the game better. It’s a different game. You are going to get beat. You are going to give up plays. Just don’t lose confidence in yourself. Trust yourself, trust the scheme and trust the coaches.”

Helping out: It wasn’t just the guys on offense that helped the young cornerback. The players in the secondary were there for him every step of the way, helping him with whatever he needed.

Joe Haden, a guy like that, a multi-time Pro Bowler. A guy that is at your position,” said Hilton. “A guy I am around all day. He gave me tips and techniques and things. Having Joe right there is a big help for me. He taught me a lot of things. He shared with me about being active in the community. Football is going to end one day so you have to make sure things are going well for you. He helped me with everything off the field.”

And he wasn’t the only one. William Gay, who has been through it all, was also there for him. 

“He is a guy that has been in my position,” said Hilton. “He taught me a lot. He has seen it all. He showed me techniques. I tried to use those techniques to help my game.”

Applying pressure: If there was one thing that Mike Hilton wanted when he came to the Steelers, it was to be used to the best of his ability. He is a player who is quick to admit his blitzing skills are his strengths, and the defensive coaches let him loose, catching teams by surprise in the early going.

“I think the coaches really used me the right way,” said Hilton. “My ability to blitz put pressure on the quarterback. Even if I am not blitzing, just the threat of me going opened it up for other guys.

“At first, teams weren’t expecting a guy from the nickel to blitz as much as I did. It caught teams by surprise. Then they focused on me and the blitz is coming from another place and we got a big play. I feel like my threat is making opposing offenses a little worried.”