LATROBE, Pa. - Safety Mike Mitchell has been waiting for this day since the team reported to training camp on July 25. He finally gets to do what he loves. Play football.
Mitchell was placed on the active/physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp, and has been an observer ever since. But on Monday he was activated from the list and headed back onto the practice field.
"They did a good job keeping the reins on me a little bit and now they are going to ease me back in," said Mitchell. "I just have to be smart and make sure I stay on top of everything.
"It feels good. It's just practice; it's training camp. But it does feel good to be healthy and play again. You feel like something has been taken away from you so to get that back it does feel good. It will be nice. It will be a little different in practice. I don't have the same intentions I would necessarily have in a game. We still have to wait for that. It's going to be good just to practice and earn my keep so to speak."
Mitchell, a free agent safety signed this offseason to play alongside Troy Polamalu, said he doesn't feel like he has to prove himself like a rookie might after missing time, but he was definitely anxious to be out there with his teammates going through the daily rigors of camp.
"I want to come out and earn it with my brothers every day," said Mitchell. "To see them, how banged up they are and sore they are, I want to feel that way too. You kind of feel like you are letting everyone down when you can't participate and practice. The big thing I hang my hat on, and the good NFL players do, is your ability to play every single day and guys be able to trust you, count on you and rely on you. It's frustrating not to be able to do that. To be able to get back out there is going to make me feel better."
The Steelers open the 2014 preseason on Saturday night against the New York Giants, and Mitchell said he isn't certain what his availability will be. He is leaving that in the hands of Coach Mike Tomlin.
Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steeler's eighth day of Training Camp.
"I am going to go out and play the way that I play," said Mitchell. "I am not out here trying to do anything crazy. I am getting eased back into it. They will see when the games count."
While he wasn't able to play, Mitchell took advantage of the time on mental reps, spending time during practice just a few feet away from defensive backs Coach Carnell Lake.
"It's just little things, any time he corrects them it's like he is correcting me," said Mitchell of how he approached the coaching. "You want to learn from your teammates mistakes and not be a repeat offender. Hopefully I will be able to go out there and not repeat the mistakes people have made in the past and have the group progress as a whole.
"I have taken every single mental rep you could while we are out here so I feel prepared. There is going to be some type of mental adjustment, but I should be fine. It should only take a couple of days."
And for a guy that's waited 10 days to practice, that adjustment time should fly.
"I looked at it as a blessing in disguise," said Mitchell. "I was down, I was frustrated. But like Coach (Dick) LeBeau says, 'You can't keep a good man down.'"