January 24, 2022

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First Call: Mike Hilton says Steelers’ familiarity aided pick-6; significant injury for upcoming Steelers’ foe; Penguins head west

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An ex-Steeler talks about how knowledge of his former team helped during a showdown Sunday.

We look at a significant injury concern for an upcoming team on the Steelers schedule, odds for the ACC championship game and some similarities between the Penguins and their next opponent.

All that in Monday’s “First Call.”

Hilton had it all the way

Ex-Steeler Mike Hilton was basking in his interception return for a touchdown against his former team Sunday.

After Cincinnati’s 41-10 beat down of the Steelers, the Bengals defensive back said that his familiarity with the Steelers offense aided in his ability to make the big play.

“Being a former player, you know those guys, you know what they like to run in certain situations,” Hilton said after the game. “You know who they want to get the ball to, so me having that little insight definitely put me in position to make a play, and I just had to go make it, and I did.”

Hilton said he sniffed out the play based on the formation.

“It was an empty formation, so you know the ball’s going to come out quick,” Hilton said. “We were in a certain zone, and I saw three go up field, so I knew two were either coming in or going out, and I was shaded inside, so I protected myself inside, and he broke out, and I was able to undercut it and take it to the house.”

Hilton was all smiles with the Bengals fans after the game as well.

Bengals fans? The best in the world? Ouch, Mike. Now that really hurts.

That doesn’t look good

After the Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, they have a short week.

The next game is a road trip to Minnesota for a Thursday night game (Dec. 9) against the Vikings. But Minnesota may be without Dalvin Cook.

The star running back was carted off the field against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday with what appeared to be an upper body injury of some sort.

Cook had 103 yards from scrimmage on 16 touches before leaving the game. He entered the contest with 734 rushing yards, fifth in the NFL. According to the NFL Network, he is slated for an MRI Monday.

Early favorites

The Pitt Panthers are early favorites in the ACC Championship game.

According to OddsShark.com, Pitt is favored by three points to beat Wake Forest Saturday in Charlotte.

The over-under is projected at 72.5. Actually, I think that total may go up, seeing as how the Demon Deacons (42.9 points per game) and the Panthers (42.8 points per game) are the two highest-scoring teams in the ACC.

That ranks them third and fourth nationally, as well.

Back in a groove

When the Penguins face off against the Calgary Flames Monday night, they’ll be in a similar spot to their opponent.

Both clubs will be looking to get back on the winning track after a recent loss.

The Penguins saw a five-game winning streak halted by the Montreal Canadiens Saturday. They lost in Pittsburgh 6-3. Mike Sullivan’s team had outscored opponents 16-2 during their prior five-game romp.

The Flames had a four-game winning streak snapped by the Winnipeg Jets Saturday, thanks to a 4-2 defeat. They had won their previous four games by an aggregate total of 19-4.

The Flames lead the NHL in goals allowed per game at just 2.00 per contest. The Penguins are sixth at 2.67. The Flames penalty kill is second in the league at 88.2%, behind only the Penguins (90.9%).

One big difference between the clubs is that the Flames have the seventh-best power play in the NHL (24.6%). The Penguins power play ranks 28th (12.9%).

The Penguins are currently fifth in the Metropolitan Division with 24 points. The Flames’ 29 points put them second in the Pacific Division, just one point behind the division-leading Edmonton Oilers.

The Pens visit Edmonton Wednesday.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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