On March 11, 2014. The Pittsburg Steelers did something they aren’t accustomed to doing. They signed a player through Free Agency. Usually a franchise motto of building through the draft, the Steelers made a statement by signing Free Safety Mike Mitchell to a 5 year $25 million deal. A deal from a team Mitchell grew up knowing all too well. “Growing up around the Cincinnati area that was a team you knew about and being a Bengal fan as a kid…you were afraid of them.” Mitchell said about his new team at a Press Conference on March 13 and couldn’t be more ecstatic about the opportunity. “To play for such a storied franchise, you know 6 Superbowls….its cream of the crop, its top notch, the best of the best”. Once considered a classic Al Davis draft bust and nearly being cast out of the league, the former second round draft pick is getting a legitimate second chance at the sport he loves.
Coming out of a less than glamorous Alma Mater, Mitchell played his college ball at Ohio University (not to be confused with Ohio State University) where he was a standout player. Starting in 30 games, 23 at Strong Safety, 7 at Free Safety, Mitchell recorded 212 tackles, 3 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 13 passes defensed, and 7 interceptions. Though posting some strong numbers and accompanied by some bone crushing hits on film Mitchell was overlooked by many NFL Scouts and wasn’t invited to the 2009 NFL Combine. Al Davis decided to gamble on the Hard Hitting Safety anyway.
Four seasons in Oakland, Mitchell never found his stride. Backing up already established starters in Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff, Mitchell found himself scraping for playing time as a utility player. Playing anything from gunner on Special Teams to Outside Linebacker, Mitchell was never given an opportunity to play his natural position. After minimal production and no contract extension from the team that drafted him, Mitchell hit free agency with little enthusiasm. A glimmer of hope arose when a one year contract worth less then $1 million came about from the Carolina Panthers. Mitchell signed.
Going into the 2013 season Mitchell was poised to once again fill a backup role. After an injury to former teammate Charles Godfrey another opportunity opened for Mitchell, an opportunity he would eventually close. Mitchell stepped into his new starting role and never looked back. Making an immediate impact he collected 3 interceptions in his first 3 games as a starter. Bringing emotion, natural leadership, big hits, and big play ability, Mitchell had arrived…….….66 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a team leading 4 interceptions by seasons end, the Steelers were looking to steal Mitchell. “As soon as I heard Steelers…I jumped at the opportunity.” Though they aren’t his childhood team, playing for a team like the Steelers is a dream come true for Mitchell because they embrace the type of intensity and play style that Mitchell ultimately plays. “I know what the franchise is about, the way they play football here I really think fits my personality, it’s very hard-nosed…there were just too many things to pass up.”
Its been a roller coaster…… Overlooked in college, almost draft bust, one season make or break contract…..Mike Mitchell is now simply concerned about one thing, helping the Steelers win their 7th Championship…..