The Pittsburgh Steelers gave former Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell a five-year, $25 million deal on Tuesday night. After four disappointing seasons with the Oakland Raiders, the 26-year-old safety signed a one-year deal last season with the Carolina Panthers hoping to impress. Impress he did and after a successful campaign in 2013, he got rewarded with a long term deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mitchell, a former second-round pick out of Ohio U, was spectacular with the Panthers last season. In 15 games (14 starts), he registered 67 combined tackles, four interceptions, four sacks and two forced fumbles for one of the best defenses in the league. With an aggressive, physical style of play, he showcased an ability to deliver punishing hits on his opponents. He is 6'0'', 213 lbs and only 26. Those numbers are very comparable to Troy Polamalu’s numbers last season when he went to the Pro Bowl. Imagine him playing alongside that Head and Shoulders guy. Mitchell still has room for continued growth after a breakout season and will excel under Dick LeBeau. He also helped the Steelers out with their salary cap situation in the process. Even though this move won’t be considered to be a blockbuster, it does immediately improve the Steelers defense and injects some youth into the system.
With mega-star safeties like Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward on the free-agent market, Mitchell wasn't highly regarded or sought after in free agency. He was seen as a valuable asset to any team and a pretty good bargain around the league. I think some teams thought of him as a product of a very good Panthers defense and didn’t feel that he deserved the big bucks. Carolina's front seven was pretty dominant, which certainly helped him make a name for himself. Teams around the league were enamored with his size, athletic ability, and nose for the ball in both the running and passing games. Mike Mitchell reminds me of a young Ryan Clark with his hard-hitting and smash-mouth football mentality, but with more speed and coverage skills.
Has safety Ryan Clark now become expendable? Will the Steelers continue to be active in the free agent market and look to add a cornerback as well, like Alterraun Verner, Walter Thurmond, or Nolan Carroll. If they can't afford it, do they draft CB Justin Gilbert or CB Darqueze Dennard? With this signing, do they draft a safety in the first round, like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Bama? They just re-signed S Will Allen and are grooming Shamarko Thomas, who is going into his second year. Will the Steelers now target LB CJ Mosley, a wide receiver, or a defensive lineman in the first round? There are so many unanswered questions, but that is status quo for this time of year. It’s hard to believe that we still have seven weeks to go. Stay tuned!
Mitchell verbalized that he is definitely going to show up next season and validate his huge contract. This is great news to the Steelers who were looking for secondary help. Mitchell publicly thanked God for this blessing and Mr. Rooney and the Steelers organization for such a great opportunity. He looks forward to continuing his career in the Black and Gold.