With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: S Mike Mitchell
Stock Value: Up
When the Steelers signed free agent safety Mike Mitchell to a five-year, $25 million contract two years ago, it came with a bit of a buyer beware tag. Having only had one credible season of productivity under his belt with a much better defense, investing in a player who might not be plug-and-play quality was a bit of a roll of the dice.
After one season, it certainly seemed to confirm some of the worst fears as Mitchell struggled through much of the year, as we later learned playing through multiple groin tears. He also failed to be very impactful after being very much so for the Panthers the year prior.
While his first season in Pittsburgh was far from a total disaster in spite of the issues that persisted, year two was nearly night and day in terms of his clear level of comfort and confidence in the defense, and partnered with his health, it made for a much better, and more successful, end product on the field as he developed into a defensive leader.
Most crucial were the impactful plays, as he came away with two forced fumbles, recovered another two (and nearly a third had he not stepped out of bounds), and he intercepted three passes after recording none the year prior. Two of his interceptions were in the end zone.
He also recorded a career-high 80 tackles as his efficiency improved, while accounting for another career high with nine passes defensed. Entering his third season, and still fully equipped with his speed and athleticism at the age of 28, he should continue to improve as the Steelers’ free safety.
He is not only doing well himself, however, but also doing well for the team, and, along with veteran cornerback William Gay, make up the nucleus of the veteran presence of what is suddenly a rather young secondary. Mitchell is becoming both a vocal and physical leader and presence for the team in the locker room as well as on the football field, which is what they envisioned when they signed him.
The only thing holding back is, one again, his health, as he is currently sidelined as he continues to recover from an offseason surgery on his shoulder relating to an injury that hampered him but which he once again played through last season.