New Steelers safety Mike Mitchell fielded several phone calls from teams when the NFL free agency period got underway earlier this week. When he found out the Steelers were one of them he immediately focused on whatever was necessary to make new his business address in Pittsburgh.
The feeling was mutual for the Steelers, who were seeking a younger replacement for veteran Ryan Clark.
“It all kind of happened fast,” said Mitchell, a five-year veteran who spoke with reporters Thursday afternoon at the Steelers practice facility on the South Side. “My agent was fielding a lot of phone calls. He was running off a list of teams. As soon as I heard the Steelers, growing up around the Cincinnati area that was a team you know about. Being a Bengal fan when I was a kid you’re afraid of them.
New Steelers safety Mike Mitchell talks to media
Mike Mitchell said: ???I jumped at the opportunity. I know what the franchise is about. The way they play football here fits my personality. It???s very hard-nosed. There was just too much to pass up. (Video by Rebecca Droke; 3/13/2014)
“I jumped at the opportunity. I know what the franchise is about. The way they play football here fits my personality. It’s very hard-nosed. This division is very physical. There was just too much to pass up. I immediately identified them as a team I definitely wanted to go to.”
Mitchell played his first four seasons for the Oakland Raiders, who drafted him in the second round of the 2009 draft. He was a reserve for his tenure there and signed a one-year contract with Carolina last season with hopes of proving he was a starting-caliber player.
Mitchell started 13 games for the NFL South champion Panthers and had four interceptions and four sacks.
“I just feel like I needed an opportunity in Carolina and the rest is history,” Mitchell said. “I just look forward to this opportunity to show them again because there are always going to be doubters. When I was getting drafted I wasn’t supposed to be taken that high. In my second year I was supposed to be out of the league. It’s no different now. Those types of things motivate me and help me get out of bed every morning. Those are things you put in the back of your mind.”
Mitchell has met with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau several times over the past two days and looks forward to getting to know strong safety Troy Polamalu, who recently signed a contract extension to remain with the Steelers next season.
“It’s going to be a great honor, a great learning experience,” Mitchell said of playing with Polamalu. “Being a young guy in Oakland I really didn’t have an older player to learn from. Everything I’ve picked up has kind of been on my own. Learning from arguably the best player to ever play my position there will only be good things to come from this experience. He’s a great football player.
“I just look forward to seeing how he works, seeing how he practices and studies. I don’t know if I’ll be jumping over the line of scrimmage to make those types of crazy plays, but hopefully there will be things I can pick up from him that will one day make me a great player.”
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.