Photos: A look at Mitchell's career
Free agency is but 24 hours old, and the Steelers already have checked off one item from their shopping list. They found a safety to replace Ryan Clark.
When the Oakland Raiders spent a second-round draft pick (47th overall) in 2009 on a safety from Ohio University named
Mitchell’s investment in himself paid off today when he signed a five-year contract with the Steelers that comes with a reported $25 million and a spot in the starting lineup next to
One calendar year ago, Mitchell (6-foot, 216 pounds) had made just nine NFL starts over four seasons in Oakland, and therefore there was little out there for him when he hit free agency besides the one-year contract offered by Carolina. But with the Panthers, Mitchell blossomed with 66 tackles, 3.5 sacks, four interceptions, eight passes defensed, and two forced fumbles for a team that finished 12-4.
The Steelers will give him the opportunity to be a staple in their defense, and that will be in the spot Clark manned from 2006-13.
In many ways, Mitchell is a typical Steelers free agent signing in that he’s still a relatively young player who has starting experience and apparently is on the rise. Another factor in Mitchell’s favor is his mix of talents, which came through for the first time during his season with the Panthers.
The ability to deploy safeties to different areas of the field and have them torture the opponent in different ways can be a tremendous asset to a defense. Mitchell’s stats line from 2013 indicates he can meet those requirements, and based on his 3.5 sacks and four interceptions last season he could be an upgrade over Clark in that respect.
Mitchell’s experience with the Raiders wasn’t a pleasant one. The team first projected him as a strong safety because of his hitting ability, but then Mitchell lost an open competition for the starting spot to Tyvon Branch, a fourth-round draft pick the previous year. With former No. 1 pick Michael Huff at free safety, the Raiders had no openings in their starting secondary.
Safety Quintin Mikell, who played alongside Mitchell for most of last season, said, “He has all the tools.”
The Steelers agree, and now it’s a matter of Mitchell proving them right.