4 questions with Mike Mitchell

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Safety Mike Mitchell shares his thoughts as the Steelers get ready to take on the New England Patriots on Thursday night.

How good a feeling is it to finally get the season rolling, playing in a game that counts in the standings?
"This is what we get paid for. This is what we love to do. We are all competitors. We have to acknowledge we are not close to being Super Bowl champions, but it's something we are aiming for and that we are trying to grow into. This is why we play the game. It's an exciting time for us and anybody that is a football fan in general."

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This team has a tough schedule early on. How important is it to start fast?**
"I think it's critical for us to start fast with our schedule being the way that it is. We are going to need every single game. We can't afford to give any games away. The hotter and quicker we start, the more momentum we can build that will sustain us throughout the season. Our division is one of the toughest divisions in football. You have to come out of the gate hot and finish even hotter. That will be important for us.

"I thought last year we would win one, lose one, we kind of figured out our stride late in the year. This year I am not sure we will be able to do that. We have to start out fast."

You are going into a hostile environment in New England on Thursday night, against a team celebrating their Super Bowl win last year. How do you maintain the focus?
"I think I just have to keep guys focused on the things that we can control. Them having a banner ceremony, Tom Brady playing, those are things that we can't control. What we can control is our preparation, our effort and our attitude. Ultimately it is not about the fans, it's not about anybody in the crowd. It's going to come down to the 22 guys on the field and what they do. If we are executing at a high level it doesn't matter where we play we can beat anybody at any time as long as we are executing."

Is it fun to play in the NFL Kickoff game, with all eyes on you as the only game that night?
"I think any time you have all eyes on you, that is why you play. Everyone wants to win. You are representing your family, your organization, your team. I remember being a kid and watching Monday night football, those big prime time moments. That is why you wanted to play the game.

"For us to have the season opening game, it's going to be critical. I think it's a great opportunity and challenge for us. It's the defending world champions. What a perfect opportunity for us to make a statement for 2015, than for us to come out and put on a good showing on Thursday Night Football."

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