Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Free Agency: How Will Mike Mitchell Impact The Pittsburgh Steelers?

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were linked to many big-name free agents going into Tuesday’s official start to NFL free agency.

Some fans were hoping the Steelers would make a big splash with cornerback Alterraun Verner, formerly of the Tennesee Titans.

Well, the Steelers did make a splash, but its not Verner and most football followers may not even know who he is.

Former Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract Tuesday night. What does this new development mean for the black and gold? Let’s examine.

First off, Mitchell’s acquisition signifies that Shamarko Thomas will be the heir apparent to Troy Polamalu instead of playing aside him.

A former standout safety at Ohio University and selected by the Raiders in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Mitchell appeared to be just another Oakland bust as in four years he accumulated just 140 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions. After leaving the Raiders, Mitchell received his big break, a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers last winter.

In the excellent defensive system of the Panthers, Mitchell flourished as he registered four sacks and four interceptions while also being the third-leading tackler on the team, with 67 combined stops.

With a season of that caliber, it’s no wonder Mitchell received a nice payday and the Steelers were happy to oblige, acquiring a replacement for long-time starter Ryan Clark.

Another impact this signing has is it lessens the need for a safety in the upcoming draft. This is further evidenced by the Steelers’ re-signing of backup safety Will Allen.

With the signing of Mitchell and Allen – as well as the presence of Polamalu, Thomas and Robert Golden – there is no reason to draft a safety unless someone like Florida State’s Terrance Brooks or Vanderbilt’s Kenny Ladler falls to the late rounds.

With all that said, this signing has concerned some fans.

Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell (21) on the field prior to the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The most concerning part about this signing is the contract Mitchell received. $25 million is definitely not chump change. However, the Steelers were very cautious in signing a player that has only one year of productivity out of five.

According to, Mitchell is guaranteed just $5.25 million and should take up a mere $2.2 million of the 2014 cap hit. If Mitchell does not perform well enough to justify the money he is making, the Steelers can cut him in 2015 before the constant flow of money and roster bonuses come his way.

The Steelers also may restructure his contract after this season. He may fall in love with the Steelers as many have. This could allow them to free up some cap space, as next season’s impending free agents Maurkice Pouncey and Cameron Heyward look to be paid.

Another concern is Mitchell’s tackling. According to, Mitchell missed 18 tackles last season, the most for a safety. However, PFF praised his coverage skills. While this is troubling, Polamalu can still be relied on for run support, and the alternative of Thomas is murky at best.

While I personally wanted Louis Delmas, the Dolphins jumped on him quickly and the Steelers won’t go into a bidding war with any team so Mitchell is a good alternative.

Overall, Mitchell is a low-risk, high-reward player. He showed promise last season and being with another stable organization like the Steelers can only help him.

At just 26 years old, Mitchell still has some room to grow and could improve over time. The contract he signed also encourages me as if he doesn’t play up to par, the Steelers can part ways with him next year.

While I may be skeptical of this signing, I understand why it was made. Before this signing the Steelers didn’t have a free safety.

The other option was Thomas, and we have no idea if he can actually play at a high enough level to consider starting him and it’s not his natural position. If it ended up that Thomas is not starter material, it could’ve been a disaster.

In the end, anything is better than uncertainty, even if uncertainty is replaced by skepticism.

What do you think of the Mike Mitchell signing?

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What do you think? Was this a good signing? Maybe you still want a safety with the Steelers’ first draft pick, but whatever the case I want to hear your opinion. Feel free to comment on the post and discuss.

Thanks for reading!

Tags: Mike Mitchell NFL Free Agency Pittsburgh Steelers Shamarko Thomas

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