Mike Mitchell’s Position Flexibility, Outspokenness Makes Him A Perfect Fit For Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Carolina Panthers unrestricted free agent safety Mike Mitchell to a five-year, $25 million contract on the first day of free agency Tuesday and while his addition likely surprised a few people, he appears to be the perfect candidate to replace the outgoing Ryan Clark.

Over the course of the last several years, the Steelers have been fortunate enough to have Clark and Troy Polamalu both be interchangeable when it comes to the free and strong safety positions and the former even talked about that position flexibility as far back as 2011.

“I’m never going to be that guy,” Clark said of Polamalu, when asked if the two are interchangeable after the Steelers 31-24 playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens in early 2011, “but the (safety) position is interchangeable. You talk about two guys who have played together for a number of years now, have played this defense for a long time. He does things different ways than I do, but as far as the play-call goes we just play wherever we want as long as one safety is doing whatever is drawn up and the other is doing the other thing.”

Prior to his one season with the Carolina Panthers, Mitchell primarily played the strong safety position with the Oakland Raiders during his first four years in the league, but after Panthers starting free safety Charles Godfrey tore his Achilles’ tendon in a Week 2 of the 2013 season, Mitchell took over at free safety and played well. He talked about his position flexibility, and ability to cover, prior to the Panthers playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers back in January.

“A lot of people really get it confused, because they see me, and they see how I can be physical and hit people, and they think, ‘Oh, he has no coverage at all,'” Mitchell said, according to Phil Barber of The Press Democrat. “Whereas when I was in college, first and second down I was in the box against the run, and third down my coaches used me at free safety to help play against the pass.”

While many people seem to be focusing on he missed tackles that Mitchell had in 2013 with the Panthers, perhaps not enough attention is being brought to his coverage abilities. According to Pro Football Focus, the Ohio product was thrown at 41 times during the 2013 regular season and while 68.3% of those passes were completed, opposing quarterbacks registered a lowly 50.6 passer rating when throwing his way thanks to his four interceptions and two passes defensed. In addition, Mitchell’s 8.1 yards per completion allowed last season was nearly half of the 16.3 yards per catch that Clark allowed in 2013 with the Steelers.

So, in what other ways will Mitchell fit right in with the Steelers? Being as he was fined five times in 2013 and according to him, more than 10 times during his short NFL career, Mitchell should be right at home in the Steel City. Like his predecessor, Clark, Mitchell’s also not afraid to speak out about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

“Roger being Roger, I guess,” Mitchell said following his fifth fine of the 2013 season back in October. “To be honest, I think there is a little bit of a targeting system they have out. And I think I’m one of the guys they’ve been looking for, but I’m OK with that. The coaches and my teammates know who I am, know the type of player I am.”

Mitchell also said at that time he believes his fine money has gone “right in Roger’s pocket.”

Mitchell plays the game with a ton of passion and he’s not afraid to deliver the big hit. His aggressiveness might result in a few missed tackles, but that is one area of his game that quite possibly can be fixed. He’s thrilled to be in Pittsburgh and being that he’s not yet 27 years of age, he figures to be a fit for the Steelers for the next several years.

  • Paddy

    I agree whole heartedly. The signing also kept him away from the Ravens who are in dire need

  • dgh57

    Mitchell was finally given a chance at starting last year and with it lots of playing time and it seems to of payed off for him. Seems like I recall a guy named Wallace from last year displayed the same thing for us after getting his chance. I’m liking this signing as it does seem like a good fit for us as I’ve heard he has more range and speed than Clark.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    Knowing how hard it is for players to learn Dick LeBeau’s defense, I’m wondering what Mitchell’s impact will be in his first year with the Steelers. I think year one will be a learning year for him and I’m expecting average play. I think he will start to feel more comfortable and make big plays in year two.

  • Paddy

    He will be the starter day one. They have no one else. He has played safety for two teams since 09. That’s why they signed him

  • srdan


    I would love another vocal leader out there.

    How does this guy do vs tightends? We should have a good sample since he played Graham and Gonzo twice each last year.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Starting 5 years ago, the Steelers were targeted by the idiots running the NFL. They fined a few defenders and ultimately suspended James Harrison. The used the Steelers to set an example because at the time they were obviously the most feared defense in the league. Since then, they have had to be careful, while other teams get away with stuff. That should be over now.

    Therefore it’s time to start hammering people. Guys like Clark and Harrison made defenders crap themselves. Now Mitchell and Shark and others will need to step up and do the same if we expect to see a defense that will once again be feared.

  • steeltown

    Love the signing, I feel so much more comfortable now regarding the Safety position… now, lets focus on CBs in the draft

  • steeltown

    We have W.Allen for another yr, so he can platoon if he struggles initially

  • dgh57

    I’m starting to warm up to drafting Dennard as along with Mitchell and Thomas should bring more physicality to this teams defense.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Great signing gives the Steelers an upgrade in our Defensive backfield. Hopefully we can upgrade our pass rush with a FA signing but if not a couple of DB draft picks should help give the secondary a shot in the arm.

  • steeltown

    It’s a real possibility.

    Now im thinking either Dennard or Evans/Ebron, unless they fail to re-sign Woods and/or Hood then they could still go DL

  • srdan

    I am thinking that this signing has given them some flexiblity to allow troy (shark at SS)on teh field in obvious passing situations to cover RBs and TEs, and taking williams off. Meaning that the Mosely pick would be a luxury.

    Corner is still the primary need on this team (assuming our DL doesn’t get gutted) but an explosive playmaker is going to be more impactful.

    I think this signing has allowed the steelers to truly take BPA or BAA (best athlete available).

    Evans over Dannard over Ebron. But with any of them I’d be ecstatic.

  • Maureen A Gomes

    I wish Gilbert would fall to the Steelers. As for WR, I’m a Marquise Lee type of gal.

  • mem359

    How does PFF assign “missed tackles”? Considering that he was the 2nd leading tackler on the Panthers, maybe he has so many misses because he was good enough to be in position to have so many tries.

    It may be like McLendon being graded a bad run defender due to the tackle being made yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. If he hustles to make the tackle after the RB ran towards the sideline (away from him), I would consider that a good play, but PFF would mark it as a failure due to where the tackle was made.

  • Jollyrob68

    Woods signed with Titans. SMH

  • Matt Manzo

    This was a great signing!!! We were hoping for a Clark/Farrior signing, and I think we got it!