Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Green feared no one and where feared by everyone. Greg Lloyd was just plain nasty, while Joey Porter was the type who would go after somebody on their own team bus. Those kind of players weren’t limited to the front seven either, as the Steelers secondary has produced some the league’s hardest hitters over the years. Players like Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, Rod Woodson, Troy Polamalu, and Ryan Clark used to mercilessly lay the lumber to all receivers, leaving them hearing footsteps for the rest of the game. These are the kinds of players Steelernation has related to, with great pride, over the years. These are players whose Jersey’s are still worn regularly by fans on game day, which brings us to the curious question, if Steelernation has always loved these physically punishing players, then where is the love for Mike Mitchell?
Mike Mitchell came to the Steelers as free agent in 2014 to replace the recently departed Ryan Clark, whose best known hits, among many, are when he knocked out Willis McGahee and Wes Welker. After resurrecting his career with the Carolina Panthers, Mitchell became attractive to the Steelers, but had a rough first season for two reasons. First, he played most of the season on two torn quadriceps muscles that needed to be surgically repaired, and second, it took him awhile to develop some chemistry with Troy Polamalu. Where Ryan Clark had the luxury of playing with Polamalu and an established secondary for years, Mitchell has spent his few years playing in a secondary that is being overhauled around him. During the last two years though, Mike Mitchell has become the physical presence in the secondary that Clark was.
Mike Mitchell is a different sort of character who wears his emotions on his sleeve and likes to talk trash. He may be in fact the first known Steeler to have been kicked off of twitter by Mike Tomlin. While things that have come out of his mouth have rubbed some people the wrong way, along with some of his on field actions, the things he has been criticized for are the very same things that players like Clark and Porter were praised for. How does that work exactly? How is someone cut from the same mold as so many of defensive players from the past, who are held in high regard, go so underappreciated? By all accounts, Mitchell has been a good teammate and he has been productive. In the two and a half years that he has been in Pittsburgh, Mitchell has done everything that has been asked of him.
When it comes to run defense, Mitchell isn’t shy about throwing his body around. He has collected 149 tackles and has forced 4 fumbles, recovering two of them. In coverage he has 18 passes defended and four interceptions. Two interceptions have come in the endzone, one off of Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals, and the other off of Johnny Manziel in Cleveland. Mike Mitchell certainly deserves a lot more credit and appreciation than he has been given. Perhaps as Artie Burns and Ross Cockrell continue to grow and develop, along with Sean Davis, Mitchell will get to show off more of what he can do. In Carolina, Mitchell was surrounded by a much better defense than he’s had in Pittsburgh so far. It stands to reason that as the performance of the Steelers defense grows, so to will Mike Mitchell’s.