The Pittsburgh Steelers signed fourth round draft pick, Tony Hills, to a three-year deal on Thursday, reportedly for $1.45 million dollars, with a $304,500 signing bonus, according to scout.com. Hills played his college ball at the University of Texas.
The 6′6″, 305 lb lineman has dealt with severe injuries over his short football career. He had a career-threatening injury in his high school state championship game, that many thought he would never come back from. The Longhorns and the NCAA granted Hills a medical hardship in 2003, while he recovered from his knee reconstruction. By 2004 he was back on the team. By 2005, he was a top back-up on the line. By 2006, he was a starter. In 2007, Hills was receiving national recognition, that would ultimately see the big lineman drafted by the Steelers.
He was projected as a second rounder, before a broken leg late in 2007 ended his year, and his high draft status. The Steelers may have gotten a steal in the fourth round.
The real question about Hills won’t really be answered until we can see him play once he’s learned the offense. At 305, Hills isn’t close to what he’ll ultimately weigh in the NFL. Look for him to gain 10-20 pounds in the next year, as he lifts with the Steelers strength coaches. Overall, he has good strength and movement. He’s extremely quick, but really, still learning the game.
The knock on Hills is that he’s not really an X’s and O’s kind of player. He relies on his strength, and technique, but struggles understanding a defensive front. This can be devastating in the NFL, if he has a hard time grasping schemes heading into Sundays. Still, this is an athletic kid, who has a good head on his shoulders. He works hard, as he’s shown in rehabbing his knee in high school, and his leg in college. If he works that hard, look for the X’s and O’s to come.
He’s a natural at tackle, but many scouts predict that he ultimately could be a guard. He won’t learn that position until he shows a 100% grasp on his tackle position. That won’t be any time close to this year.
He’s a good addition to the Steelers’ offensive line, so we’ll call him a good ’start’ for the Steelers, as they continue to try and create the needed depth for the trenches.