Bringing back a series I had a lot of fun exploring last offseason. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.
Mike Mitchell – Separate Player From Ball
Though I’ve praised Mike Mitchell often and been a big defender of him, his game is far from perfect. He carries a well-deserved reputation of a big hitter and last week, we wrote about the psychological impact it has on wide receivers.
In researching that article, I did notice one trend: last year, it wasn’t often he separated player from the ball, even on his biggest hits. A big hit is great but the catch counts all the same. Let’s check out a couple of examples.
All the way back in Week One. Big hit at the catch point on the receiver but he’s able to hang on, ultimately, the only thing that really matters.
A similar story in these next two clips; one against a tight end, another against Corey Coleman. In the latter, the Cleveland Browns go from 2nd and 21 to 3rd and short. Jar that ball out and now it’s 3rd and near impossible. Big difference.
Of course, receivers get paid too and they’re sometimes going to make combative catches. Sometimes you tip your hat to them. It’s not like Mitchell never been able to break up throws either; Marvin Jones probably still has the bruises to prove it. But that wasn’t as evident last season.
Mitchell is never going to be a high-interception type. Only twice in his career has he had a season picking off at least two passes despite being a single-high safety this whole time. His impact will come by forcing fumbles (seven, in his career) and knocking the ball out at its catch point. That’s how he, and by extension, the Steelers’ defense, will win.