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Alejandro Villanueva on Mike Hilton: Betting on yourself usually works

Josh Alper

Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton said recently that he’s not planning to skip any of training camp, but he also hasn’t budged from his stance of looking for a contract beyond the $645,000 he’d be due to make if he signed his exclusive rights free agent tender from the team.

Players in that position rarely wind up landing new deals, but Hilton doesn’t have to look far to find one that did. Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva got a four-year, $24 million deal in 2017 when he refused to sign his ERFA tender. Villanueva continued to work out with the team and has spoken to Hilton about his situation this offseason.

The nature of those talks hasn’t been disclosed, but Villanueva said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, that “betting on yourself, in this business, usually works.”

“You don’t want to have a guy in the locker room who’s not happy with his contract, especially when he has the backing of his teammates,” Villanueva said. “He’s been about it the right way. He’s shown up every single day, not making it a big deal. For that, he gets a lot of respect from all of us.”

Hilton is an ERFA because he was a practice squad player in 2016 and did not accrue a season toward free agency. He has played in 31 games over the last two seasons as the top slot corner in Pittsburgh.