Mike Mitchell’s body has taken a beating since first joining the Pittsburgh Steelers. While he has managed to start 32 regular season games and three playoff games—that is, every game the team has played since he signed a five-year contract during the 2014 offseason—that time logged has not come without a cost to his body.
Before he even took a snap for the Steelers, the veteran safety suffered a groin injury during the offseason in his first year in Pittsburgh that he played through for the entire 2014 season. He suffered two groin tears, in addition to whatever additional wear and tear playing through the tears put on his body, which resulted in surgical repairs during the offseason.
Mitchell’s play that year was highly criticized from all corners, with even the coaching staff in post-season interviews acknowledging that they would like to see him perform better in his second season, while adding that they believed his play improved through the year.
With little surprise, his play did improve in his second season in Pittsburgh, and that no doubt had to do with his groin being in better shape than it was the previous season, although other factors, such as greater understanding of and continuity in the defense, inevitably also played contributing roles.
Not that his 2015 campaign was without incident. At some point during the regular season, Mitchell sustained a shoulder injury that dogged him down the stretch of the year. He also injured his hand at one point to add to the injury tally.
As should go without saying, those injuries also affected his play to a degree, both in terms of performance in with regards to in-game circumstances. While he did not miss any games, he did miss a few dozen snaps due to injury in addition to the goal line snaps of which he has not been a part.
The fact that he has been banged up over the course of his tenure with the Steelers, and that it has had a negative impact on his play to varying degrees, is certainly unfortunate, and the preference will always be a healthy player and a healthy season, of course.
But it can’t be denied that through his willingness to play through these injuries, of which he has kept silent during the course of the season, he has proven himself as a tough competitor who is willing to sacrifice more of himself than is necessarily to help his team out—even if he may not be helping by playing injured.
That is a quality that is to be admired, especially for somebody playing a position that is prone to high-speed and significant collisions, the majority of which are self-initiated. Some may quibble over his performance and his compensation—indeed, his on-field antics have turned many off—but in my estimation, he has already sufficiently endeared himself to those who matter most—his teammates and coaches.