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Keeping his head in the game

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LATROBE, Pa. - Steelers safety Mike Mitchell's been an observer rather than a participant ever since the shoulder pads have come on at St. Vincent College.

But he's not anticipating his regular season being altered because of it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers participated in their final training camp practice before the NFL/Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

"I have a little bit of an issue going on," Mitchell said. "It's not something I'm going to let get in the way. It's not a significant thing. It's something that's fairly minor."

Mitchell's still been on the field, often observing 11-on-11 play from deep center field with defensive backs coach Carnell Lake.

Safety Shamarko Thomas and cornerback Brandon Boykin have also been observing from that vantage point when not involved in practice reps.

"I stand out there just because I want to take every single mental rep," Mitchell said. "When you're not taking the physical reps, the mental reps are extremely important. If you're hanging around on the sideline you tend to be talking with your teammates more than you are paying attention.

"I line up back there with Coach Lake, see it from the perspective that I'm going to be looking at it and make all the calls and take every mental rep and try to make all the adjustments and just kind of put my body, I'm obviously using my imagination, but put my body in the right positions and how I would defend those things."

From his perspective behind the secondary, Mitchell has seen the Steelers working to perfect the Cover 2 scheme.

But that's nothing he hadn't seen before.

"We still run a great mix of different coverages," Mitchell said. "We ran Cover 2 some last year. It's something we've had a little bit more of an emphasis on from the standpoint of 'Coach T' (head coach Mike Tomlin) has actually come over (to work with defensive backs during position drills). He comes from a big Tampa 2 background and he's kind of put his handprint on it a little bit more for this year.

"It's a coverage we're all familiar with. I think most guys that have played in the league or played any level of football, even high school, have played some form of Cover 2. We're just mixing it in with all the other coverages we're running."

Mitchell said he didn't know how much the Steelers intend to rely upon Cover 2 this season.

"I have no idea," Mitchell insisted. "The best coverage is when you're getting sacks, so we're always going to want to be a pressure team.

"We haven't played a game yet. We're just repping things. We're repping every coverage, every blitz, every package equally. We're just trying to get 1,000 reps at everything and get as good as we can possibly be."

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