During his first two years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, veteran safety Mike Mitchell has worked extensively at learning all of the nuances of the team’s defense and that had to be somewhat challenging being as he’s played for two different defensive coordinators during that span. Now entering his third season in Pittsburgh and fully understanding the defense, Mitchell is looking forward to being a leader on the defensive side of the football in 2016.
“Me and ‘Deuce-Deuce’ (cornerback William Gay, No. 22) will definitely have to take a big-time leadership role, but I’ve been asking for this for at least two years now,” Mitchell said Tuesday, according to Mike Prisuta of steelers.com. “‘Coach T’ (head coach Mike Tomlin) is finally going to let me do that.
“I’m in my third year now in the system so it’s really something I look forward to. We’re talking about how (defensive end) Cameron (Heyward) brought along (defensive end Stephon) Tuitt, that’s how I plan to try to help bring around our young guys.”
One of the young guys that Mitchell hopes to bring along quickly this season is fellow safety Sean Davis, who was drafted by the Steelers in the second-round this offseason after playing his college football at Maryland. Davis, who played cornerback during his 2015 senior season, is now expected to start off playing the strong safety position initially with the Steelers while continuing to learn the entire defense as well as the free safety position.
“I’ve been in the building with Sean (Davis), just trying to bring him a long as fast as we can, something I wish I would have had when I was in Oakland,” Mitchell told Prisuta.
The Steelers organization has long been regarded as one that thrives on its older players helping out the younger ones from year to year and Mitchell certainly seems willing to carry on that tradition. With that said, all he can do is teach and thus it’s up to the younger players to absorb it quickly.
“As far as their development and how fast they grow, I really think that’s up to them,” Mitchell said. “How much time are they really willing to put in to perfect their craft? Hopefully they’re watching how we work and how we study and they’ll gain those same attributes.”
As of right now, it appears as though fellow veteran Robert Golden will start the season playing the other safety spot alongside Mitchell. With that said, Davis might be able to see the field sooner rather than later in some of the team’s defensive sub packages if he can get himself up to speed quickly with some much-needed tutoring from Mitchell.
As for Mitchell, specifically, he still has three years left on the five-year, $25 million contract that he signed in 2014 as an unrestricted free agent. Last season, despite being slowed for a good part of the year by a shoulder injury, he still managed to set a new career-high in total tackles. That shoulder has since been surgically repaired and he’s now expected to be able to participate fully in the team’s training camp that will get underway in late July. In the meantime, however, expect Mitchell to constantly be working with Davis both on and off the field during the team’s OTA practices.
“I’m ready to really mentor and try to pass on the knowledge that I have to our younger players, because that’s what it’s about being a Steeler,” Mitchell said.