After missing all of the team’s OTA practices due to his surgically repaired shoulder, it appeared as though veteran Pittsburgh Steelers safety Mike Mitchell was destined to also miss this week’s mandatory minicamp. That wound up not being the case, however, as Mitchell was reportedly far enough along in his rehab to be cleared to participate in the recently concluded three-day session.
“It was way ahead of schedule,” Mitchell said, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I probably shouldn’t have done it, but the competitive juices were flowing and I know my teammates would take care of me. Nobody was out there trying to do anything extra.”
This is certainly good news for several reasons. For starters, barring any kind of a setback, Mitchell should be able to be a full practice participant when the Steelers report to Latrobe for the start of training camp. During his first two seasons with the Steelers, Mitchell has been forced to miss valuable practice time during training camp due to groin and hamstring problems. Second, the fact that Mitchell was able to take part in the team’s three minicamp practices allowed him to be on the field playing alongside youngsters Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas and rookie draft pick Sean Davis instead of having to watch and serve as a coach. That togetherness, albeit only for three practices, is probably a big deal due to the inexperience factor of the others.
Even though Mitchell recorded a career-high 80 total tackles and 9 defensed passes in 2015, he did so by having to play with an injured shoulder for a good portion of the season. Because of that, one would think that Mitchell could have yet another career year in 2016 that should include less missed tackles and perhaps a few more interceptions and forced fumbles.
Mitchell has asked for and received a larger leadership role this season and the Steelers secondary certainly needs that now that the team appears to have moved on once and for all from longtime veteran safety Will Allen. Mitchell, along with veteran cornerback William Gay, will now be in charge of quarterbacking the back-end of the Steelers secondary that could include two rookie draft picks playing extensively by the midpoint of the season.
While Mitchell has already played seven years in the league, he’s never sniffed Pro Bowl or All-Pro recognition. That could possibly change in 2016 and especially if he doesn’t have to deal with any nagging injuries throughout the season like he’s been forced to do during his first two years in Pittsburgh.