Pittsburgh Steelers safety Mike Mitchell is now in his fourth season with the team after signing a five-year, $25 million free agent contract in 2014 and he showed up for the start of this year’s OTA practices a little bit heavier after getting some offseason training in with veteran outside linebacker James Harrison.
“I spent three months with Deebo [Harrison] and [I’m] about 10 pounds bigger,” Mitchell said during a Wednesday post-practice interview on Steelers Nation Radio. “I still feel like I can run a little bit and so it was productive for me for sure.”
Mitchell was asked if he’s ever seen any other player work out as hard as the 38-year-old Harrison does and his answer was quite a predicable one.
“No, no,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been doing it for the last two years, so, I’ll put my career on the line, he does not take any PDs [personal days]. I see him work every single day, he’s just a hard worker.”
Mitchell, who is now in his ninth season in the NFL, was asked if there was any specific reason for him wanting to add some weight during the offseason.
“Just trying to be healthy,” Mitchell said. “When you’re eating right and working as hard as we work, you put on the muscle. Still, for me, it’s being able to be flexible and keep myself injury free. I’ve had some injuries, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play through them. I just felt like that was the best thing for me, getting a little bit older, wanted to add some extra weight up top because I do try to play physical. I don’t want to have any more shoulder surgeries.”
While Mitchell, who will turn 30 in a few more weeks, has battled a few shoulder and groin injuries during his first three seasons in Pittsburgh, he’s yet to miss a game and that’s one aspect that often gets overlooked when people talk about the former second-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders. In fact, the Ohio University product has only missed a total of four regular season games so far during his career.
Mitchell was later asked during his Wednesday interview where he considers himself to be at right now at this stage of his career.
“I still feel like I’m an ascending player,” Mitchell said. “There’s still so much that I can improve on and get better at and I work at those things every day.”
Mitchell also believes that his play will improve in 2017 now that two of last year’s draft picks, cornerback Artie Burns and safety Sean Davis, have a full season underneath their belts as both should be more comfortable as it relates to their individual assignments.
“I think a big thing for me this year, because those young guys are going to be more experienced, it’s going to be less getting guys lined up,” Mitchell said. “I think a lot of times last year, I had to look outside and make sure Artie was lined up right, or look and check and make sure Sean was doing the right thing, just because I pride myself in being a leader of the secondary, along with Will Gay, and we couldn’t allow mistakes. We made mistakes early in the year, but we really got those things cleaned up towards the end.
“And I felt like last year I had to do a lot of that, whereas this year, now, it’s going to be like when I was playing with Will Allen and Ike Taylor, those experienced guys, where I’m not even worried about what they’re doing. I know they know what they’re doing. Now I can really focus on what my assignment is and really looking at the offense and trying to dissect the play before the snap and that’s really where I take a lot of pride in my film study, because I’m not the most athletic guy, at least I don’t think I am, I think I’m just a hard worker and a person that’s good at preparing.”
Last season, Mitchell registered 77 total tackles, nine defensed passes and an interception and those numbers were slightly lower than the ones he recorded during the 2015 regular season. He gave every indication during his Wednesday interview that he expects he’ll put up better numbers in 2017.
“When I’m allowed to dissect, and look at the formation and get that information, it really helps me play better, versus having to check outside and make sure guys are doing the right thing,” Mitchell said. “So, barring any injuries, I’m thinking it’s going to be a good year for me.”