Hilton: Refs Missed ‘A Couple’ False Starts

Steelers cornerback talks officiating, defensive gaffes in loss

Josh Rowntree
December 03, 2018 - 2:47 pm
San Diego Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin (12) scores a first quarter touchdown by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton (28) at Heinz Field.

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - In the aftermath of the Steelers historic collapse against Los Angeles, Steelers fans balanced their ire between a defense that caved after halftime and an officiating crew that had one of the more horrific nights you’ll see.

The Steelers, generally, stayed away from being overly critical of the officials following the loss, turning much of the blame on themselves. 

Rightfully so. Pittsburgh, for the first time ever at home, lost a game when leading by 14 points. 

But the officiating still deserves criticism and, on Monday, Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton provided some when asked about the Chargers’ first touchdown, which came on a play that should have been blown dead after Los Angeles right tackle Sam Tevi moved before the snap.

“Personally, I feel like they missed a couple of those, which kind of played into the outcome of the game,” Hilton said. “But we’ve just got to bounce back. We can’t let it hold us down, we’ve got a good opponent in Oakland Sunday, so we’ve got to be ready.”

On the play, Hilton was beaten down the right sideline for a 46-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin. He admitted that he froze, thinking the play would be whistled dead.

“To be honest, I did,” Hilton said. “But they didn’t call it. I know that, as a professional, I’ve got to stay in-tuned and stay inside the play. So, I gave up that first one and it kind of came back to haunt us.

“You can tell on film, everybody stopped the rush. Some of us in the secondary slowed down a step, so it slowed us down and they got a big play off of it.”

During the broadcast, NBC color commentator Cris Collinsworth noted that Tevi had been moving early quite a bit. Earlier in the season during a Chargers game against Cleveland, Los Angeles got away with a similar play, resulting in a score. The linesman who missed the call was terminated that week.

But there was more to the loss than bad officiating. The Steelers were again unable to force turnovers, something that has plagued the team in recent weeks. 

Related: Who's To Blame For Steelers Loss To Bolts?

Since intercepting Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick three times in Week 3, Pittsburgh has just two interceptions. Joe Haden picked off Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and Vince Williams returned an interception for a touchdown against Carolina. Opposing passers have thrown 107 straight passes without a pick.

“It’s hard to say,” Hilton said. “We get in position, we get our hands on balls. We’ve just got to catch them and bring them in. We know turnovers are important and we haven’t forced enough to give us chances. We’ve got to turn that around somehow. 

“Just bad breaks. Things just didn’t go our way. We’ve got to be in position to make those plays. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s not going to kill us, but it’ll make our job on defense a lot easier.”

On top of the lack of turnovers, Pittsburgh’s defense played soft on dangers LA receiver Keenan Allen, who hauled in 14 passes for 148 yards and a score. Allen, for much of the night, got matched up against a linebacker in coverage, instead of Hilton, who normally covers slot receivers.

“That’s what we were expecting throughout the game, that I was going to get matched up on,” Hilton said. “I did have my shots on him. They attacked our linebackers, putting him in at number three and letting him go to work. And it showed. 

So did Keith Butler and the defense adjust?

“We didn’t,” Hilton said. “They kept attacking and it kept working for him. I’m not blaming it on anybody. That’s tough on L.J. [Fort] and those guys to go against a top receiver like that. But we’ve just got to be prepared for it and find ways to adjust.”

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