Unfortunately for new Pittsburgh Steelers starting safety Mike Mitchell, the grand takeaway of his debut with his new team was no doubt the poor angle that he took on New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings’s 73-yard touchdown run right up the middle of the defense this past Saturday in the team’s preseason opener.
Mitchell spent so much time as the single high safety, in fact, that he often wasn’t even on the screen, making it difficult to give a more complete evaluation.
Other than him coming up on the second play of the game to blow up a wide receiver on a running play, and one casual blitz on a play that was called back due to penalty, the free agent pickup spent the vast majority of his time out of sight of the television camera’s lenses.
But one thing that was evident, outside of the one poor angle, is Mitchell’s eagerness and willingness to hit, which we saw on a few occasions last week.
On this third and 15 play for the Giants late in the first quarter, for example, you can see Mitchell coming up late to try to lay a shoulder into the running back. Even though he doesn’t quite fully connect, nor actually register an assisted tackle on the play, the intent is apparent with him coming in from 15 to 20 yards off the ball to get into the game.
Mitchell’s most impressive play of the game, however, didn’t end up showing on the stats sheet because it was ultimately called back due to a holding penalty on the Giants’ left guard. But this is the preseason, and we’re evaluating performance, not statistics.
On the Giants’ first play to begin the second quarter, they were facing a second and 18 situation following a holding penalty on the previous play. New York ran a draw to running back Andre Williams, and the offensive line blocked it well, with the exception of the hold on Cameron Heyward that helped free the back.
Mitchell, once again 20 yards off the ball as the single high safety, was the last line of defense on this play. Only William Gay perhaps had a chance of making a play on the running back. Mitchell was caught in open space and had to line himself up to absorb the back. He mirrored Williams’ sharp cut to his left with agility and just got a hand on the back’s leg to trip him up. Not a form tackle by any means, but a strong play in the open field, and a good sign, I think.
A couple plays later, after yet another penalty, Mitchel was having none of it, as he followed the play from the back end and chased Williams to the sideline, where he popped the back in a head-to-head collision that sent his own helmet spinning into the air. The last two plays certainly demonstrated better angles than before.