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This & That: Coming soon, star stuck & more

Posted Oct 6, 2017

Hitting on all the topics as the Steelers prepare to take on the Jaguars.

Getting closer: When Martavis Bryant was reinstated by the NFL this season, the Steelers got back their deep threat, a player who could make that game-changing catch.

Four games in it’s been a little slow developing, though. Bryant has 10 receptions for 182 yards, with one of them going for 51 yards against Vikings. The next longest, though, is a 24 yard reception.

Fear not. It’s easy, and Bryant says that it’s getting close to that breakthrough.

“As far as the explosion plays, we haven’t hit them like we used to,” said Bryant. “It’s still a long season. Just have to keep working. In due time it will come. It’s been very close. Sometimes you have your hit and misses, sometimes you make them. Just have to continue to work at it. We are going to hit them.”

Ben Roethlisberger knew it would take time for him and Bryant to get back in sync after he sat out all of last year suspended, but he definitely sees progress.

“I think he is getting close,” said Roethlisberger. “I like the progress that we have made. I don’t think anyone expected it to be an overnight thing. It was going to come in steps. I think we have been taking those steps, we have been communicating well, and he has been making plays. I need to connect with him a couple of times on some big balls.”

Star struck:
When you look at the impact the Steelers’ rookies are making this season, you immediately think of the players who were part of the 2017 NFL Draft class.

But in reality, there is another player who is making an impact in what is his ‘rookie’ season – Mike Hilton.

Hilton was in the NFL last year, but only on the Patriots practice squad for the first week of the season, and then the Steelers practice squad beginning in mid-December. So technically, he is a first-year player. But he didn’t play a snap, so he is in the same shoes as those drafted this year.

“This is pretty much my rookie year. I didn’t play at all last year,” said Hilton. “This whole game is new to me. I am slowly getting comfortable and my confidence is higher.”

Hilton definitely looks comfortable in the Steelers defense. He has seen significant playing time this season, even starting against the Vikings when he tied for the team lead in tackles with eight. Against the Ravens he had a breakout game, with his first career interception.

“It’s a good fit all around,” said Hilton. “They love blitzing slot corners. I came in and fit what they are looking for.”

Hilton also apparently fit what another organization was looking for. Last year when he was out of football for a few months he applied for a job at Foot Locker in Atlanta. Shortly after he was signed to the Steelers’ practice squad, he got the job. He happily declined, and is now playing with and against players he watched as a kid.

“I am still star struck by some people. I will be honest,” said Hilton. “It’s a great feeling. Growing up and watching these guys play, I wanted to be out there with them. Now I am out there making plays against them.”

Words of praise for Watt: It’s not often rookies hear words of praise, but Cameron Heyward had no trouble heaping praise on No. 1 pick T.J. Watt. Watt hasn’t just stepped in as a starter as a rookie, but he has stepped in and made an impact on the defense.

“He is making the plays, but if he is not making the plays he is in the right gap forcing somebody else,” said Heyward. “He gets penetration at the line. He uses his hands very well and disengages. He is only going to get better.

“I love his intelligence on the field. I love his passion on the field. He is always having fun out there. He is a heck of a player. He is only going to keep growing. He is going to take more leaps and bounds as the season keeps going along.”

They said it:

Hilton on the defense:
“Overall as a defense we like where we are headed. We still haven’t reached our potential. We have a long season ahead. The talent is there.”