Say what you will about veteran safety Mike Mitchell, but nobody could reasonably deny that he is passionate about the game, about his teammates, and about the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. He has been the good soldier since the team signed him in 2014 to take over at free safety.
While opinions about his play have been decidedly mixed—fair or otherwise—you need only ask his teammates about how important he has been to the maturation of this young defense, particularly the young players in the secondary.
He is unquestionably a leader within the group, and one of the responsibilities of leadership is owning up to your unit’s shortcomings, and that is what he did while speaking to SiriusXM on Friday when he was asked about the Patriots and about switching to playing more man coverage.
Talking about whether or not he believes the Steelers should have played more man against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game and if they need to do so when they face New England again this upcoming season, Mitchell gave the response you might expect from him.
“As far as what they’re doing up there [in New England], I’m not preparing to play them right now”, he said. “You know, going off of what we’ve experienced, obviously maybe switching to some man may have been more effective, but I’m never one to question our game plan or what our coaches ask us to do”.
He does strike upon an important point, whether one is inclined to accept the explanation or not. Football is an incredibly complicated and intricate game. That is why there are so many different schemes and styles of play. But at a fundamental level, it most often simply comes down to doing your job.
“It’s more about our execution and executing what they’re asking us to do”, Mitchell said of his defense’s shortcomings against the Patriots. “New England’s a very good football team. We probably will have to switch some things up and play a little bit different, but I think everyone that plays them will because their offense changes from week to week”.
In the meantime, as I have written about earlier this year, the Patriots are supposedly preparing their offense to play against more man coverage with the expectation that more teams will attempt to attack them in that way. The Falcons did that in the Super Bowl and it worked…for most of the game, anyway.
The bottom line is that Mitchell understands that the Patriots are an extremely difficult opponent, and no matter what scheme they end up running, it will ultimately come down to them executing. “They’ve got one of the best head coaches, one of the best offensive coordinators, and for dang sure one of the best quarterbacks to ever play”, he said. And it’s hard to argue otherwise. So you had better come prepared.