Steelers OTAs: Less talk on the field without Ryan Clark, but more athleticism

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers' new starting free safety, Mike Mitchell, doesn't appear to be the talker Ryan Clark was in his time in Pittsburgh. Mitchell hasn't met Troy Polamalu since signing with the team in March but he's leaning on two veterans knowing their roles to bring success back to the defense.

Two points of interest from Beaver County Times' Chris Bradford Thursday.

He writes the Steelers practice field is a lot quieter without veteran safety Ryan Clark, and his replacement, Mike Mitchell, and Troy Polamalu have yet to meet in person since Mitchell signed with the team in March. Polamalu isn't attending the Steelers' OTAs practices this week (they conclude Thursday), and isn't expected to attend when they resume next week.

How important is meeting your co-worker, so to speak?

"As long as you know what you’re doing, you really don’t have to know the guy," Mitchell told Bradford. "It’ll be fine. "He’s a veteran. I’m a veteran. As long as we both know what we’re doing, there’s certain things we’ll be able to talk about. For now, I’m still learning the playbook, once I know what I’m doing then me and him can start working on changing something up if we choose to do that."

A rule held by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is if you're going to guess, you better be right. Polamalu has made a career off playing to his instincts as frequently as playing to the script. LeBeau encourages it, again, as long as you know what you're doing.

Mitchell seems to understand that part of it. What he'll need to learn, in the critical free safety position within that defense, is always be prepared for Polamalu to go off script.

Clark didn't exactly endear himself to fans for a variety of reasons, most coming from the end of his tenure in Pittsburgh - he was not resigned, and ended up in Washington on a one year contract. Clark, at his best, was a smart safety, and one who thoroughly understood Polamalu's intentions.

If Polamalu's gambles failed, the stuff rolled down on Clark, who would often be left on an island as the last line of defense against a big play. The Steelers gave up an alarming amount of plays of 20 yards or more last season, stemming from the entire defense, not just its safeties, but the addition of Mitchell is seen as a response to that sudden trend.

With Mitchell, the Steelers may be able to play more one-deep coverage, which gives Polamalu a re-discovered sense of spontaneity. Even in their more traditional Cover 2 looks (they played a lot of Cover 3 last season as well), Polamalu can disguise himself in a less recognizable way.

As long as Mitchell knows those things, even the decreased amount of chatter on the field can't be seen as a negative aspect of Clark's departure and Mitchell's addition.

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