End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Mike Mitchell
Experience: 6 Years
Mike Mitchell just completed his sixth season in the league, his first with the Steelers, and only the second in which he played a prominent role. After being drafted by the Oakland Raiders, Mitchell joined the Carolina Panthers for 2015 and gained a starting role through injury.
In 15 games played, with 14 starts, the safety was the beneficiary of some stout defensive play in front of him. He contributed two forced fumbles, four interceptions, and 3.5 sacks during the year, and parlayed that play-making performance into a back-loaded five-year, $25 million deal with the Steelers to replace Ryan Clark as the starting free safety.
But he didn’t come anywhere close to having the same sort of difference-making impact that he found with the Panthers the year before in his first season with the Steelers, failing to record an interception or a sack, though he did force two fumbles. He also registered a career-high 71 tackles, despite often playing the role of the deep safety.
Many fans were not overly enthusiastic about the signing, and many of the reasons for the skepticism, quite frankly, revealed themselves over the course of the season. He showed a tendency to make bad angles and going for the kill shot rather than making the sure tackle, which results in missed plays.
He also has a brash personality, which apparently extends off the field, considering the team advised him to stay off of social media at one point. He was penalized five times during the year, largely for unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct.
While he did have a small handful of good games, and at one point seemed to be establishing some sort of a rhythm, Mitchell’s first year in the defense was ultimately a disappointment, and the defense will need to see him grow and become more reliable in year two, regardless of who he will be playing next to.
It came out after the Steelers lost in the playoffs that Mitchell had been playing throughout the year with a groin tear that would require surgery. If we go all the way back to the middle of July, during OTAs, Mitchell was dealing with a groin injury then, and would not go into the specifics of the injury, but clearly it was more significant than the outside world realize—yet not significant enough to prevent him from playing.