It's never too early for extra work

During the first week of OTAs, on the very first day of OTAs, Mike Mitchell was already in mid-season form.

At the conclusion of OTA No. 1 on Tuesday, the veteran free safety remained on the field at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to get in some extra work.

Mitchell even had a plastic water bottle with him to ensure he'd be able to maintain hydration throughout his preparation.

"We came up short," Mitchell said, reflecting for a moment on the loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game that ended the Steelers' 2016 season. "The goal here is to win a championship.

"I'm trying to lead by example."

The group of potential followers has been expanding.

Last year's draft yielded cornerback Artie Burns, safety Sean Davis and nose tackle Javon Hargrave.

This year the Steelers have brought in linebacker T.J. Watt (first round), cornerback Cameron Sutton (third round) and cornerback Brian Allen (fifth round).

"A lotta young guys, man, that's kind of been the swing," Mitchell observed. "We've been getting younger every year, but they're good, young guys and that's always important.

"Hats off to our coaches and our scouting staff, finding these good, young players to bring in. It's up to guys like me, (cornerback) Will Gay, (linebacker) James (Harrison), (defensive end) Cam Heyward, the leaders on the defense to really get them up to speed and let them know how we play ball.

"Part of that is staying out after practice, getting extra work every day, working on our craft."

The young guys have made a positive first impression, Mitchell said, in part because they've been paying attention.

"T.J. was out there with the ones (the first-team defense), but he doesn't say a whole lot, which is a good thing for a young guy," Mitchell said. "I know Cam (Sutton) and Brian a little bit better because they're in my (defensive backs) room and i'm a little bit more hands-on with them. But I think they're all good, humble, young guys, which is what you want. Those are the type of guys you want to be trying to coach up because they're willing to learn, they don't have an ego.

"That's what we need here."

Another reason Mitchell has been so committed so early in the process is he's recognized the trend of losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion in each of the past two seasons and would like to write a different ending this time.

"That's kinda been our story the last two years," he said. "We need to be the team this year. We need to make the road go through Pittsburgh and get the job done."

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