Mike Mitchell Defends Reputation: ‘I’m Not A Dirty Player’

Over the course of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, safety Mike Mitchell has drawn a lot of heat on different occasions, and seems to be viewed by many outside of Pittsburgh as among the dirtiest players in the league. Both players and coaches on the Bengals have called him out in the recent past while defending Vontaze Burfict.

He is facing yet another ‘Twitter trial’ of sorts after the ninth-year veteran was seen contacting Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith low on a throw during the Steelers’ victory in Kansas City on Sunday, which has prompted him to once again defend himself against accusations of playing outside of the rules.

I’m not a dirty player”, he told the gathered media. “The video shows what it shows. I wasn’t trying to take Alex Smith’s knees out”. The play occurred on the final play of the third quarter, on which the safety blitzed, only to have the quarterback duck out of the way and complete a long pass on a dump-off to the running back. It did draw a roughing the passer penalty.

Back in September, Mitchell talked about his presence as a big hitter and how he has changed the way that he plays as the years have gone on to ensure that he not only hits with an impact, but that he does so within the rules.

What I’m ultimately trying to do is get a man on the ground if he’s running the ball or break up a pass if a pass is thrown. I’m not particularly trying to hurt anyone”, he said. “If you look at over the course of my career, I think I’m one of the guys that’s gotten exponentially better at not hitting people in the head and KOing”.

Though he has had a couple of personal fouls called against him—not all of which subsequently ended up receiving a fine, mind you—Mitchell certainly is right that he has played a much cleaner game than his reputation suggests, and honestly, I’m not entirely sure why he seems to be particularly singled out enough to be called one of the dirtiest players in the game.

“I’m not just a guy that’s out there running around without any control. I’m skilled, I’m aiming where I’m hitting and I’m hitting guys in the body legally”, he said during that previous interview last month. He has maintained that he tries to play the game the right way, and prides himself in doing so.

When it comes to Sunday’s incident, the currently available tape frankly leaves the matter somewhat ambiguous to me. The replay does show that Anthony Chickillo gave him a slight shove, and he appears to stumble.

As Mitchell pointed out, Smith was also fading backward, toward the safety, after he threw, backing into his path. But beyond that, it’s really too much speculation for me to make a strong inference either affirmatively or negatively about supposed intent on the play.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.


    I wouldn’t be upset if this was his last year with the Steelers.

  • #beatthepats

    I have to disagree with him, he cut smiths legs because he was pissed he missed the sack imo, he was lucky he wasnt flagged in the first half for helmet to helmet as romo pointed out that he got away with one. His celebration in the 4th quarter on a tackle of fournette was embarrassing, throw in he stinks in coverage has one interception in a year and a half . And he wAs not missed at all when he sat out his one game.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Any better angles of the play?

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    anytime you have to defend yourself by saying “I’m not a dirty player” usually means your a dirty player but I don’t think that particular play wasn’t necessarily his fault

  • WreckIess

    He’s not lol. He gets a bad rap from Steeler Nation because he hits hard which is funny because guys played exactly like he did just 10 years ago and they were just looked at as physical players. Ryan Clark was putting guys on stretchers and no one called him dirty, same with Harrison. Hines Ward was the king of the crack back block and no one in Steeler Nation would ever dream of calling him dirty.

    The difference is that a lot of Steeler fans just don’t like Mike Mitch (because he shows emotion and the fans don’t like that for whatever reason) so they’re more willing to believe anything negative that’s being put out there about him. It’s clear though. He was pushed, fell, and was even landing away from where Smith was until Smith backed into him where he was falling. He even got up with his hands up like he was saying “It wasn’t my fault” which everyone knows isn’t his MO. If Mitchell wants to hits you on purpose he lets you know about it, he doesn’t apologize.

  • falconsaftey43

    I always think contexts is important, so here are Mitchell’s career penalties along with Chancellor and Ward, two other hard hitting type safeties, ones I don’t believe have “dirty” reputations, at least as far as I know.

    129 games 75 starts
    24 penalties.
    6 UNR, 2 Taunt, 1 Roughing passer, 1 Personal Foul, 2 block in back, 2 facemask, rest are DPI/Holding

    105 games 89 starts
    27 penalties.
    8 UNR, 1 rouging passer, 1 personal foul, 3 face mask, rest are DPI type stuff.

    TJ Ward
    98 games 96 starts
    29 penalties.
    5 UNR, 1 roughing the passer, 1 unsportsmanlike, 1 personal foul, 1 disqualification, rest are DPI type.

  • falconsaftey43

    And two guys who had/have “dirty” reputations.

    60 games 58 starts
    29 penalties
    13 UNR, 2 roughing the passer, 2 personal fouls, 1 facemask, rest are DPI/holding type.

    115 games 115 starts
    57 penalties
    2 UNR, 1 unsportsmanlike, 1 tripping, 5 roughing the passer, 2 illegal blocks, 1 horse collar, 3 facemask, 1 disqualify, rest are offsides type.

  • Edjhjr

    Not sure what somebody else sees but Mitch is going straight ahead , and then gets pushed straight ahead ,while he is being tripped by chick.

    As that is happening Smith is going backwards into this.

    It’s very clear he did not do this on purpose

  • galerus277

    But he is dirty.
    My least favorite player on the roster. Not because of head hunting, but him being dirty player is one of reasons why.

  • galerus277

    Time’s changing man. Ryan Clark is my favorite player of all-time (yeah, LOL with our history of legendary players :)), but he was head hunter. Yes, he totally was, though he was allowed to “kill” people at the time, that was the rules. He could hit guys in the head without problems that NFL cause to its enforcers now. But time come and go and now there is different rules. I can understand the era difference, I can praise Clark knowing those rules, but I can’t praise Mitchell. Why can’t Mitchell understand the rules?

  • falconsaftey43

    Take a look at his career penalties below, is that really that many?

  • falconsaftey43

    And Ryan Clark’s, remember the rules were different when he played.
    177 games 152 starts
    18 penalties
    11 UNR, 2 Personal foul, rest DPI type.

  • Orlysteel

    Wish we had more “ dirty” players like him, when you play against him you know he’s going to nail you hard if he gets the chance , Love his game it’s old school football, it’s Steelers football, it’s Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, Donnie, Shell, it’s what this has known for.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    how about the hit on west? it was late and helmet to helmet. gave west a concussion.

  • galerus277

    I dont’ know. I would like to see much broader sample size. How MM is looking vs all of his defensive counterparts.
    All I can see from this stats for sure is that Burfict is an exceptional idiot.

  • falconsaftey43

    haha yeah, it’s incredible how many penalties that guy has earned.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    fact is even if the hit on alex was unintentional he had at least 2 other hits on chiefs players that were.

    mitchell is an above average safety that is playing out of position aand is far closer to an ss than an fs. and him and davis should have been switched in positional placement. but being that davis is only in his second year, and that mitchell had to cover for him and burns last year, has caused him to be out of position many times. as far as being dirty he just makes dumb decisions and being out of position causes his tackles to be late.

    mitchell though takes bad angles of attack, which i have explained many times before and if you move him to ss and play him closer to the line a lot of these issues would go away. shorten the length needed and his timing and angles of attack will be better. he is better when he is not in space.

    davis has his own issues but is faster and has better range. davis does need a lot of work but he would be more of a natural fs.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    more than likely it will be. his age, his contract, and hi splay style all make him ultra vulnerable.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    2017 steelers have 48 penalties at the moment for 410 yards on 1047 plays, 3rd most in the league.

  • Edjhjr

    I kind of remember it but have to see it. I can say Mitch us a lower the head hitter
    Really no need for it. Shazier…same thing

  • Michael Mosgrove

    google mike mitchell hit on charcandrick west. the 3rd result from arrowhead pride, has the video link.

  • RC

    Playing with enthusiasm and being upbeat is one thing and talking a little smack is another…if he just let his play speak for itself he probably wouldn’t be talked about so negatively. I believe I have seen a lot of late hits and questionable hits, but I won’t say that makes him a dirty player. To me he gets that reputation cause of the way he handles himself on the field…seems to be such a hothead. He always has to say something to his opponent after he makes a play…even if he made a tackle after the opponent still got a first down. Yes, he made the tackle “Great”, but the opponent still gets to play on in that possession. Artie Burns is another example…gets so excited and heated that he too is always yapping his gums. They both seem to be so hot-headed and so into their own head that they keep praising themselves until they realize they just messed up on the next play and come crashing down to reality. Why Act like they just won the game for the team and talk so much crap to the opponent especially after that player just got a first down. Why head butt or get foolish penalties or get in the face of the opponent smack talking? Wasting time they could be using to get ready for the next play. To me they are overpriced brats. I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking a little smack if you just made a crucial stop…game changing stops. Talk a little smack and then turn around and go back to playing ball or just go back to play on without saying a word. Maybe not dirty but a hothead for sure. Greats like Troy never had to tell an opponent how great he is…The Opponent Already Knew It!!! I could be wrong about both of them…I guess they could be getting in the face of their opponent after every tackle they make and telling them how well the opponent just did and how much they admired them for getting so many yards before they finally tackled them, maybe they are yelling with all their might that they just want to go out for coffee after the game.

  • FATCAT716

    Watch his feet when he got pushed from behind he had already got tripped up. Some of you people be already to jump on guy’s without a full understanding just because of your personal feelings

  • FATCAT716

    When you do see it watch his feet

  • FATCAT716

    You can hit helmet to helmet. No one is calling Rosie a dirty player for that hit on Hill

  • falconsaftey43

    7 safeties at at least as many penalties as Mitchell.
    He had 2 UNR, 30 total by safeties. 29 players had at least 2.

    Mitchell had 2 penalties. 53 safeties had at least that many.
    He had 1 UNR, 35 total by safeties. 236 total UNR penalties.

    Mitchell had 4 penalties. 13 safeties had at least that many.
    He had 2 UNR, 26 total by safeties. 15 players ahd at least 2.

  • FATCAT716

    That was a physical hit man.. This is football why do you guy’s think this is ring around the rosie

  • falconsaftey43

    Nix was league, Mitchell’s was not. Nix’s hit was vs a guy still in act of running. Mitchell’s guy was held up by another defender for a significant amount of time first, making him “defenseless”. You don’t have to agree with the rules, but they are what they are. Mitchell’s hit on West was a penalty. Nix hit on Hill was not.

  • FATCAT716

    Exactly it’s not malicious, it’s physical. Football is a contact sport & the guy’s that play physical bring intimidation to the game. Unfortunately for does that Don’t understand the game from a players stand point suffers

  • Orlysteel

    Love the bruisers, bring on the punishment.

  • AndyR34

    Haters are haters everywhere. Objectivity is not their core competency…maybe not even in their wheelhouse.

  • Matt

    Only difference between Mike Mitchell and Ryan Clark is that what Clark did years ago is now COMPLETELY illegal. Mitchell slips and makes some dumb helmet to helmet hits, but he seems to have done a good job switching up.

    My only issue with Mitchell is he really isn’t THAT good. Guy lays the wood but is a liability out there sometimes. Ryan Clark played next to the best Steeler of the past 30 years. Mitchell plays with Sean Davis in a heavily regulated league.

    Not a dirty player… just a drop off in talent back there.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    It looked to me like he took advantage of the very light shove from Chick to throw himself at the qb.

  • rystorm06

    No, not a dirty player, just a stupid player. He cost the team 15 yards again, and should have been flagged for another one. I’m willing to bet this guy has the NFL record for 15 yard penalties

  • #beatthepats

    Thats embarassing to mention those names on a mitchell thread.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Was the whistle blown, or does that not matter in that case? (serious question, I’m not actually sure)

  • falconsaftey43

    Whistle was not blown in either case I do not believe. Mitchell’s case, it does not matter if the whistle is blown or not. A player in the grasp of another defender is afforded “defenseless” status and cannot be hit in the head-neck area etc.

    Article 7 (a)(5)
    A runner already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped.

    Article 7(b)(1)
    forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if
    the initial contact is lower than the player’s neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms
    to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him

  • nutty32

    Great write up. Bungle fans just don’t understand football. Outside of the Alex Smith play, pretty much all of 23’s hard shots occur well within the confines of a normal football play. Not much is “extra curricular.” It’s the extra curricular that distinguished Burfceit and other “dirty players.”

  • PA2AK_

    I would be. Who would start? Golden? The horror. Ha

  • John A Stewart

    I can’t wait for Mitchell to leave in any form or fashion to me he never felt like a Steeler more like a wannabe . We hot heads like Porter but he was very good this guy Mitchell is a hot head and average big difference.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, I guess it comes down to personal interpretation of the play then. West was still advancing, in my opinion, and thus not defenseless.