With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: Mike Mitchell, FS
Mike Mitchell was the Steelers’ ‘big’ free agent acquisition, even if ‘big’ is relative in terms of the kind of deals other teams commonly make during their own free agency period. Pittsburgh had grown accustomed to the occasional financially modest free agent addition that offers more return on investment than expected.
I don’t suppose there will be many arguing in favor of that being the case for the first 11 games of Mitchell’s career in the black and gold. While he’s made 51 tackles, defended a pair of passes, and forced two fumbles, he’s also missed tackles, bit on play action, and taken bad angles.
To boot, he’s ruffled feathers with his unnecessary roughness penalties, rampant boisterousness on-field, and, most recently, inappropriate comments on Twitter to fans that has gotten himself banned from using the social media platform. There was also the kneel down incident that resulted in a public tongue lashing from the head coach, even if it seemingly stemmed from a misunderstanding.
Mitchell’s play has suffered particularly over the course of the past couple games as he’s been paired with Will Allen, filling in for the injured Troy Polamalu. The change in personnel has dictated a change in playing style, as he has been asked to do a variety of things, not all of which he has looked comfortable doing.
While it’s not hard to see that the Steelers needed a change in the lineup based on the performance from the position last season, it’s also obvious that the front office hasn’t gotten in return the player they were hoping for, the one that made an impact in Carolina.
With the Panthers last season, Mitchell had the luxury of playing with an excellent defense that allowed him to be a playmaker, forcing fumbles, intercepting passes, and recording sacks. He hasn’t had that luxury in Pittsburgh. While that isn’t entirely his fault, it has also exposed some of his weaknesses.
As a result of that, the Steelers haven’t even been able to take full advantage of his skill set. He’s had limited impact as a blitzer, for example. Whether or not we see a different Mike Mitchell over time is a question left unanswered. It’s not as if it’s all been bad, but it could certainly be much better.