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2018 Offseason Questions: Will Pittsburgh Cut Mike Mitchell?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: Will the Steelers truly cut ties with Mike Mitchell, as has been reported?

Yesterday afternoon, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article in which he claims that the Steelers are ‘likely’ to release starting free safety Mike Mitchell, who has been with the team for the past four seasons. He was initially acquired on the first day of free agency in 2014 and has been the starter at the position since he was brought in.

Dulac wrote in the article that the team is concerned with the number of big plays that the defense gave up a year ago in the passing game, and blamed the deep safety play as the primary, though not exclusive, culprit for this.

Mitchell is primarily the player serving in the role of deep safety. Miscommunications, poor angles, and missed tackles that allowed short passes to turn into long gains all own a share of the blame for the big plays allowed.

The Steelers signed him to a five-year, $25-million deal, of which he has already received $20 million with one year and $5 million in base salary remaining on his contract. While his cap hit is just north of $8 million due in part to a previous restructure, as well as his original signing bonus, the team would save $5 million in cap space, minus displacement, if they release him as Dulac’s report indicates.

If there is one thing that has defined Mitchell’s career in Pittsburgh—other than derision from the fans, and perhaps his mouth—it has been his health. He has dealt with notable injuries in each of his four seasons in Pittsburgh, though he had previously played through them. The Steelers believe that his injuries in the past are preventing him from playing the position as they need him to, as suggested by the report.

If the team does indeed cut ties with Mitchell, this will obviously create a hole in the starting lineup. Many will argue that anybody who replaces him will be an upgrade, and I’m sure they will say so below.

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