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Eager to doff the unconventional-for-a-cornerback No. 40 once he made an NFL regular-season roster for the first time, Mike Hilton quickly snatched the No. 31 that became available when the Steelers traded Ross Cockrell.

it was obvious Hilton was wearing an old Cockrell jersey. How so? The pinney was too long,For this week's practices, hanging below his waist.

Listed generously at 5-foot-9, Hilton almost looked like a child running around in one of his hero's jerseys.

‘I'm pretty sure I can jump over you.' ”,“We're joking all the time about him being short,” cornerback Artie Burns said after Friday's practice. “I was saying earlier when we went on the field, I'm like

Burns was laughing but then continued.

though.”,“But seriously. I'm pretty sure I can

because it has been Hilton who has been doing the jumping over teammates — one after another — on the Steelers cornerback depth chart.,Funny

Hilton has made an improbable run to a starting spot with a Super Bowl contender a nine-month span. And he's done it with the joy of a kid running around in a big-man jersey.,Unemployed for three months and cut twice when the Steelers added him to their practice squad in December

and he is expected to play the majority of the snaps for the Steelers defense when they open the season Sunday at Cleveland.,Hilton confirmed he has been getting first-team reps at nickel cornerback all week

Not bad for an undersized and undrafted player who was cut by Jacksonville and New England before mid-September of his rookie season.

“He earned it,<strong>Authentic Khalil Mack Jersey</strong>,” said Eli Rogers, the Steelers slot receiver who likely has faced Hilton in practice more than anyone. “He's earned all of our respect in the preseason because he performed well. He made some great plays. He'll stick his head in there and make a tackle,<strong>Authentic Derek Carr Jersey</strong>, and he's a smart player. So we are excited about him.”

Hilton, of course,<strong>Womens Amari Cooper Jersey</strong>, is excited, too. You can tell by his ever-present smile all week before,<strong>Womens Gareon Conley Jersey</strong>, during and after practice.

Hilton's smile has been there ever since he showed up at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the first time last December.,Then again

“I just have fun, man,” Hilton said. “A lot of people forget — yes, it's a business — but it's supposed to be fun. I just don't let anybody take my joy. Just enjoy every moment.”

it's a lot easier to enjoy it when you are on the active roster and playing significant roles in meaningful games.,Of course

Hilton calls the experience “a whole 180” from last year being signed to a team's practice squad during its Week 14 preparations.

” Hilton said,“I had to be patient, “and, of course, keep my confidence high and just be ready when my time is called. And I landed with a great organization, and everything has been going well for me.”

The Steelers have utilized Hilton exclusively in the slot position, where he feels most comfortable because of his lateral quickness, a tackling prowess that belies his size and a propensity to engage in hand-to-hand combat with receivers at the line of scrimmage.

” Hilton said.,“I feel (the slot) plays to my strengths

Hilton took advantage of the seven weeks he spent practicing with the Steelers down their stretch and during their run to the AFC championship game. Hilton said he used his time at home — the first autumn he wasn't playing football in more than a decade — to ponder his game.

“I'm a lot more prepared this year,<strong>Womens Derek Carr Jersey</strong>,  mentally and physically,” he said.

It's showed. Almost as soon as organized team activities began in May, Hilton turned heads. Throughout training camp practices in Latrobe,<strong>Womens Khalil Mack Jersey</strong>,Hilton stood out. Then in preseason games, he made plays: 14 tackles,<strong>Authentic Amari Cooper Jersey</strong>, two sacks and no big plays from his opponents.

” Burns said. “He's out there making plays.,<strong>Authentic Obi Melifonwu Jersey</strong>,“He's come along real good

“Mike, he's my boy. I love Mike. Everyone in this room, pretty much,<strong>Womens Obi Melifonwu Jersey </strong>, does.”

They like him, in part,<strong>Authentic Gareon Conley Jersey</strong>, because he's gregarious and happy. But also because he's shown he can be a help to the defense.

Everyone will get their first look at Hilton in a game that matters Sunday.

” Hilton said. “And to go out for my first regular-season game with this type of organization is going to be fun. I'm going to enjoy it.”,“It's something I have been dreaming about since I started playing football