Skip to main content

Pregame Notebook: Few Words Needed For Old Steeler Hilton As Bengals Brace For WR Johnson

Cornerback Mike Hilton points to a man in motion against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cornerback Mike Hilton points to a man in motion against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The week before they met his old team in Pittsburgh two months ago, Mike Hilton talked to his new Bengals teammates almost as much as a coach with at least two stirring speeches.

One was to the defense early in the week and one was to the entire team the night before the game. He just wanted to let them know how much a win over their arch-rival would mean not only to them, but him, too. The Steelers chose not to re-sign him and if you've watched him play these ten games (33 tackles), you knew he's a prideful guy.

Hilton said last week he may offer up another Saturday night speech, but that would probably be it.

"I personally might not be as pushing it, but guys know what's at stake and guys just want to win," Hilton said. "We're playing for each other and we know what we're supposed to do.

"I still feel like guys already know to get to the playoffs and get to where we want to be, we have to win our division. We're in the right position right now. We get another opportunity and the guys are really excited and confident."

The biggest difference for Hilton and the rest of the secondary from the 24-10 win in Pittsburgh on Sept. 26 is that Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson is playing and the Steelers see it as a must game. With wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster out, Johnson is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's go-to guy. He averages a dangerous 17.7 yards per catch and has 15 third-down catches, two for touchdowns and one on a 50-yarder that's his longest catch of the season.

"I think they have their explosive play threat back," said free safety Jessie Bates III. "I think he's a very underrated receiver in this league. If you look at the tape, you see his routes, how he can create separation, what he does with the ball after catch is very effective. I think he's very important to their offense. I think that's what is different about their offense from before. This is a complete different Steelers team, they are playing for something just like us."

The Cincinnati Bengals have arrived to Paul Brown Stadium for their Week 12 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

FAKE FLEA SALUTED: The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr., wrote a great story last week on the origin of the fake flea flicker Bengals head coach Zac Taylor called in the 32-13 win in Las Vegas. It's one of the few plays Bengals founder Paul Brown didn't create and his son, Bengals president Mike Brown, much appreciated the creativity. Not to mention the fact running back Joe Mixon picked up eight yards after his fake flip back to quarterback Joe Burrow.

But unlike most who saw it, Mike Brown said it wasn't the first time he had seen it. He doesn't remember who or when, but he saw it on TV once.

"My initial reaction was, is that on purpose," Brown recalled. "I thought when we did it, it caught them off guard. It caught me by surprise. I thought it worked well. Not only is it fun to have stuff like that in, if you handle it right it's effective and this one came out right so let's give it an A."

If anyone appreciates creativity by his coaches, it's the son of the guy whom invented the draw play. What some view as gadgets, Browns views as possibilities. When Paul Brown was the head coach of the Bengals, one of their staple big plays was the triple pass he brought from Massillon High School.

"You gave it to a guy going one way, he gave it to a guy going the other way. That guy tossed it back or handed it off to the quarterback," Brown said. "The quarterback would want to hit a long one on them, but we had a dump-off for a safety valve attached to it. People thought it was very risky, but it was easy for us."

Brown remembers a game in Washington's old Robert F. Kennedy Stadium when the Bengals were backed up in the end zone and they called it.

"You could hear the crowd go ooh-ooh," Brown said. "They thought it was dangerous. But it was easy for us. It worked. It got us out of there."

Take the last touchdown catch for Bengals all-time tight end Bob Trumpy, a Ring of Honor finalist. Trumpy grabbed a 29-yarder from quarterback Ken Anderson off the triple pass that knocked Miami out of the 1977 playoffs.

"The first time I broadcast a Dolphins game, it had to be '81, '82 or '83, Trumpy said told after Shula died last year. "I walked in and he said, 'Trumpy, you and that reverse pass in the rain in Cincinnati. That kept us out of the playoffs.'"


Bengals Picks, presented by OHIO Lottery

Play Bengals Picks every week for a chance to win prizes. Predict individual and team outcomes and compete against other Bengals fans for a chance to take home the prize, and the bragging rights!

MOSS ACTIVE: Second-year tight end Thaddeus Moss was set to make his Bengals debut Sunday when the Bengals deactivated tight end Mitchell Wilcox a day after promoting Moss from the practice squad. Moss, another Joe Burrow LSU target, was claimed off waivers by the Bengals in the spring after Washington waived him following a rookie year he spent on injured reserve.

Also inactive for the Steelers were two wide receivers, Auden Tate and Trenton Irwin, tackle Fred Johnson, defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.