Pittsburgh Steelers fans have a list of desires. While a Super Bowl is always at the top of the list, every season, as it should be, much of the rest of the list is full of people that they would like the team to fire or release, and near the top of that list for the past three-plus years has been free safety Mike Mitchell.
Those fans may be getting their way, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In an article posted earlier today, the beat writer reported that the Steelers “will likely part ways” with Mitchell, the 30-year-old whom they acquired as an unrestricted free agent in 2014. He has spent the past four seasons as their starting free safety, and prior to the 2017 had not missed a game, but was frequently injured.
That last part appears to be key. Dulac wrote that it has “become apparent to the coaching staff Mitchell cannot run well enough anymore to be effective, perhaps because of a series of injuries”. He has been injured in every season in which he has played with Pittsburgh.
During his first season here, he suffered multiple tears in his groin that required offseason surgery. Most recently, he dealt with a hamstring injury in training camp that lingers throughout the entire season. He has also had shoulder injuries, among others, yet he had played through all of them before this past year.
There are a number of reasons for this decision. For starters, for a team who needs cap space if they intend to give Le’Veon Bell a long-term contract, which they are on record in saying that is their goal, they need cap space, and releasing Mitchell will clear $5 million.
The Steelers are also concerned with the number of long passing plays that they gave up, particularly in the second half of the season. While some are attributable to miscommunication, Dulac writes that the coaching staff also blames the deep safety play “because of poor tackling and bad angles”. Mitchell is the primary deep safety.
With Carnell Lake resigning his post, it will be under the tutelage of Tom Bradley that the Steelers’ next starting free safety is found, whether it comes via free agency or the draft. If through the draft, fans may want to prepare themselves for Robert Golden as a bridge starter.
Though not surprising, Dulac also wrote that safety J.J. Wilcox, whom they acquired via trade in the preseason, will also be released. He ended up being a healthy scratch by year’s end due to his play, both on defense and special teams. That move would also clear millions in cap space.
That will leave the Steelers with Sean Davis, Golden, and Jordan Dangerfield at safety. Dangerfield spent the past season on the practice squad, but was on the 53-man roster in 2016, and even started one game.