The fact he made highlight-reel hits for a quality defense earned Mike Mitchell plenty of attention last year.
Enough for the Steelers to step out of form and give him a five-year, $25 million contract. And enough to get multiple fines from the league, to the extent that he felt personally targeted by commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I’m not just a hitter — I hate when people say that,” Mitchell said, via Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I will come up and hit you if I have to, but I’m all about the football and making the big play that changes the game.”
Mitchell emerged last year as a player for the Panthers after four indifferent years with the Raiders. Now, the Steelers need him to replace the steady Ryan Clark, and be able to make plays away from the line of scrimmage (since Troy Polamalu isn’t going to be playing center field).
“I’m a playmaker on defense. I want to take the ball away. I can create sacks, fumbles,” Mitchell said. “If they’re aggressive with me, which I think they will be in this scheme, I’ll be in position to make plays. Any time I’m in a deep zone, I feel like I’m a threat to the quarterback.”
If he’s doing that with interceptions rather than threatening them with borderline hits, the Steelers’ defense should be better for the change.