Ike Hilliard spent the 2019 season helping Terry McLaurin become the NFL‘s best rookie receiver. Now, Hilliard will be tasked with trying to build the Steelers‘ receiving corps into one of the league’s best.
Hilliard, a former NFL receiver who spent the past six seasons as the Redskins‘ receivers coach, will assume the same position in Pittsburgh after being hired by the Steelers on Monday. Hilliard is replacing Ray Sherman, who served as Pittsburgh’s interim receivers coach last season following Darryl Drake’s sudden death during training camp. Drake had been the team’s receiving coach since 2018.
Hilliard broke into the NFL coaching ranks in 2011, serving as the Dolphins‘ assistant receivers coach. He served as the Redskins’ receivers coach in 2012 before filling that position with the Bills in 2013. Hilliard returned to Washington in 2014 and remained there until the past season. Last season, Hilliard helped McLaurin produce one of the best rookie receiving seasons in franchise history. The Redskins’ third round pick in last year’s draft, McLaurin caught 58 passes for 919 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 15.8 yards per reception.
After helping Florida capture the national championship in 1996, Hilliard was selected by the Giants with the seventh overall pick in the 1997 draft. Two years later, Hilliard set career highs with 72 receptions for 966 yards that included three 100-yard receiving efforts. In 2000, Hilliard caught a career high eight touchdowns while helping the Giants advance to Super Bowl XXXV. His 10-catch, 155-yard, two touchdown performance helped the Giants blow out the Vikings in NFC Championship Game. Hilliard, who spent eight seasons with the Giants and his final four seasons with the Buccaneers, finished his career with 546 receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 touchdowns.
In Pittsburgh, Hilliard will work with receiving corps that includes JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and Ryan Switzer. A Pro Bowler in 2018, Smith-Schuster endured an injury plagued season in 2019, catching 42 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games. Johnson, a rookie last season, led the Steelers with 59 receptions and five touchdown receptions. His 680 receiving yards was second to Washington, a third year veteran who caught 44 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns last season.
The Steelers are expected to sign a veteran receiver after free agency begins on March 18. Pittsburgh may also use one of their five draft picks on a receiver, as the Steelers have had a great deal of success drafting that position during Kevin Colbert’s 20 years as the team’s general manager.