Mike Hilton Recruiting Ex-Steelers Cornerback to Bengals

Mike Hilton Steelers

Bobby Ellis/Getty Images Mike Hilton of the Pittsburgh Steelers breaks up a pass meant for Tyler Boyd of the Cincinnati Bengals on November 24, 2019.

In March 2021 slot cornerback Mike Hilton left the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency, providing his skills to the Cincinnati Bengals at the cost of $24 million over four years, per overthecap.com. Since going to the Bengals, Hilton has performed another service, frequently making an effort to try to recruit free agents to Cincinnati, including J.C. Jackson, who has since inked a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. He has also targeted cornerback Stephon Gilmore (Carolina Panthers), who has yet to sign with a new team.

His latest target, though, is a former teammate in Pittsburgh. On Friday he tweeted at @Nelson_Island, telling cornerback Steven Nelson that “it’s smooth out here in Cincy! Come join ya boy just like old times.”

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Steven Nelson Joined the Eagles Last Year

The pair played cornerback in Pittsburgh together for two seasons, beginning in 2019, when Nelson signed a three-year, $25.5 million contract in free agency. Like Hilton, Nelson moved on in March of last year, four days after the Steelers gave him permission to seek a trade. That’s when his contract was terminated by the Steelers, approximately an hour after he sent a self-described “out of character” tweet in which he insinuated that the team was holding him “hostage.”

Nelson went on to sign a one-year contract with the Eagles and played in 16 games for Philadelphia, during which time he recorded 50 tackles (34 solo), along with one interception and seven passes defensed, per Pro Football Reference.

At 29 years old, the former third-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs would be joining his fourth NFL team, assuming he doesn’t re-sign with the Eagles. To date he has appeared in 98 career games, and has been credited with 341 tackles (287 solo), along with eight interceptions, 59 passes defensed, one forced fumble and four fumble recoveries.

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Joe Haden Remains a Free Agent

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has already re-signed two of its own free agent cornerbacks, bringing back Arthur Maulet and Ahkello Witherspoon, both of whom received two-year contracts.

Remaining unsigned is Joe Haden, who will turn 33 on April 14. Haden has served as Pittsburgh’s CB1 ever since joining the Steelers in 2017.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) projects Haden to step down to a No. 2 or No. 3 cornerback role and to receive a one-year deal worth $5 million.

“As an older defensive back, playing much less press coverage, it’s time to take a look at slot DB, or play outside in a zone heavy scheme,” recommends PFF. “If playing inside is a dealbreaker, the Giants and Raiders may want to take a look at Haden. Patrick Graham and Gus Bradley run Cover 1 less than 15% of the time, and allow their corners to play with the depth Haden needs to keep the game in front of him.”

Meanwhile, PFF expects Nelson to receive a two-year contract worth in the neighborhood of $14 million. “He is better in zone coverage, but can hold up in man coverage too and would fit within most NFL defenses. He would be a good option to a team who needs several cornerback additions like the Cardinals or Vikings,” concludes PFF.

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