PITTSBURGH -- After teaming in the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary for the past eight seasons, strong safety Troy Polamalu and free safety Ryan Clark developed a strong rapport that can only occur over time.
"I'm not really sure (how long),'' Mitchell said Tuesday after the Steelers morning mini-camp walk-through. "It could take a day or it could take a couple games. A lot about football has to deal with personal relationships.
"I remember last year in Carolina, it took about 15 weeks for a corner to finally trust me when I said (for him) to go jump it (a receiver's route). He was a rookie, Melvin White, and he always wanted to do what the coach said. But I got him a pick six by not doing what the coach said, and we actually won the game. He got the pick six in Atlanta, and he trusted me after that.''
Mitchell likely won't have that issue with Polamalu, who returned to the Steelers for mini-camp after missing all the OTAs while working out on the West Coast with his personal trainer, Marv Marinovich and physical therapist Alex Guerrero. Polamalu appeared to be in good shape and certainly didn't miss a beat in the Steelers defense.
"I think it's tough to be really near-sighted in the offseason,'' Polamalu said. "The goal always is to be healthy for 16 games during the season. So, I was doing my best (the past few weeks) to prepare for that.''
It is widely believed that Polamalu's health would benefit more after the Steelers signed free safety Mike Mitchell in free agency and selected linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round during this year's NFL Draft. Their speed and athleticism should allow Polamalu to remain in the secondary or blitz and not have to play linebacker when the Steelers switch to their nickel, dime and quarters defensive packages.
It's not that Polamalu wasn't impressed with the newest Steelers, but he just preferred to reserve judgment until the club practices in pads at training camp.
"We could put Usain Bolt and the whole track team out there, but that doesn't make us a good football team,'' Polamalu said. "So, we'll see how everything works out. ... Once we put the pads on we'll really find out who's made of what.''
Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons agreed that the best days were ahead for Mitchell, Polamalu and the rest of the Steelers defense.
"With mini-camp just starting, it's going to take a while for them to know where each other is at and who can do what in this defense,'' Timmons said. "It takes some reps together to know where another player is going to be, but I feel as time goes on they'll play better together and when they get to Latrobe they'll know where each other is at.''
Along with the new players, Polamalu was greeted by an old friend, former teammate Joey Porter, now a defensive assistant for the Steelers. Polamalu said he could call him Joey, Coach Porter or just his nickname, J.Peezy. Either way, Polamalu believed he could bring a lot to the defense once again.
"Obviously, his experience,'' Polamalu said. "His attitude. He really embodied the Steelers way and the Steelers attitude.''
Porter said veterans like Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor call him Coach just when "they're trying to mess with me a little bit. ... That's only when Troy and Ike want to make a joke. They hit me with it, but for the most part they treat me normal.''
Some of those defenses that included Porter, Taylor and Polamalu were the best in the NFL due to the players' intense loyalty and camaraderie. Mitchell and Polamalu were not sure how long it would take for them to build chemistry in the secondary, but they were confident it would happen.
"The more a guy trusts you the more apt he is to understand you,'' Mitchell said. "He knows about you, (and) he knows all about what you're trying to do. Just building that trust comes with time. You don't gain that in a day. You've got to do the right thing, prepare and build the relationship from there.''
Polamalu said a reason why he and former Steelers safeties Chris Hope and Ryan Clark worked so well together was because they were such great friends off the field.
"The strength of this organization has always been in the camaraderie and the relationships of the players off the field, and then we stand up for one another on the field,'' Polamalu said. "(So), it's not about putting your best, most-talented 11 out there, but the 11 that work best together.''
Note: Polamalu did not expect the Steelers to give him a two-year contract extension. "I didn't know ... I really didn't care,'' he said. "I really didn't know. It wasn't really a thought of mine, but I'm happy that it happened.''