For a variety of reasons, 2014 was a tough year for Mike Mitchell. He gritted his way through a pair of torn groins, his play reflected it, and his new fans didn’t always take too kindly to his play. He wound up telling fans to “kill yourself” and “die broke,” leading to an imposed social media suspension for the rest of the season.
Mitchell says he’s focusing less on the distractions this year, ignoring the hateful comments sent his way.
“I think last year I really cared too much about what outsiders thought about me,” he told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “I understand not everyone is going to like me and I am okay and know the people that are in my life and love me.”
His better health and consequent improved play has probably also helped calm down those angry feelings from fans. Despite a recent nagging shoulder injury, Mitchell has started all 15 games, picking off three passes and forcing two fumbles.
Mitchell tells Varley that even though he has a reputation as an excessive celebrator, it’s part of the reward of a grueling game.
“When I make a play, I think about all of the hard work, the hours I put in for film study. When I do celebrate that is years of hard work and I am excited about that. It’s hard.”
There are moments where it seems Mitchell is going for the killshot than the interception, including once in Sunday’s loss against the Baltimore Ravens, but he places a high value on his physicality and the message it sends to opposing teams.
“If you watch wide receivers, they don’t come across the middle. Running backs get down. It’s a sign of respect.”
Keith Butler also spoke to that last week, creating a big-hitting Steelers’ secondary to make receivers think twice about cutting Mitchell’s way.
Thought it can be a little infuriating to watch him, even taunting fans at times, that’s how he’s always played the game. An element that won’t change. Part of that swagger that makes him who he is. As long as it doesn’t cross the line, it’s hard to argue with the results. Mitchell has proven himself to be one of the toughest and most physical players on the Steelers’ defense, two traits that define any old-school Steeler.