Some wanted him cut in the offseason.
Now, he’s on track to make a Pro Bowl.
You don’t have to search hard for the reason in Mike Mitchell’s stellar play in 2015. It starts foremost with health. Mitchell played with tears in each of his groins, gutting out the full season but playing at a noticeably depleted level. Carnell Lake spoke to the importance of Mitchell being healthy to Steelers.com’s Mike Prisuta.
“He didn’t really have any breaks (the ability to stop and change direction) last year. He had two torn groins. I don’t see how he really played, to be honest with you, but he did,” Lake told Prisuta.
Mitchell made few impact plays in 2014 and his inconsistency as a tackler and in coverage caused too many splash plays, a large reason for a Steelers’ defense that was as bad as its been in over a decade. Now healthy, Mitchell has intercepted three passes, forced two fumbles, and become one of the best tacklers on the team. And one of the hardest hitters.
With some inconsistency at strong safety, whether it be benching Shamakro Thomas or Will Allen’s up-and-down play, Mitchell’s play has been a welcomed addition.
“He caught a lot of grief because people thought he was a bust. Looking back on it, we talked about it at the end of the season, the guy was playing hurt and I have to commend him for that,” Lake said.
It now might be more unfair to leave him out of the Pro Bowl than to give him a spot. As we’ve mentioned before, Mitchell’s three picks are the most from a Steelers’ safety since Troy Polamalu’s seven in 2010. While some don’t like his over-the-top celebrations, he’s a source of energy to this team. And most importantly, his play has backed up those actions.