It couldn't have been a good feeling for either of them. The physical pain of Rams quarterback Sam Bradford as he was pulled to the ground while being shoved out of bounds, resulting in a season-ending ACL tear, and the emotional pain of Panthers (and now Steelers) safety Mike Mitchell, who appeared to only be doing his job.
Bradford isn't exactly Cam Newton, but he's a threat to turn up the sidelines and go for yards. Mitchell was just ensuring Bradford went out of bounds in his team's game against Carolina. Rams guard Harvey Dahl went after Mitchell on the sideline after the play, then on the field a few moments after it, apparently having seen the extent of the injury on Bradford.
Mitchell hasn't had a choice but to play the game that way - through the echo of the whistle, as defiantly as possible - since Oakland made him a second round pick in 2009.
A small-school product of Ohio University after having been spared the spotlight of high level recruiting from Fort Thomas, Ky., just south of Cincinnati. While Fort Thomas Highlands High School is among the most successful football programs in the state, high-end recruiting didn't pick up on him. He performed well for Ohio, but Mitchell wasn't even invited to the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine. On the speed of an outstanding pro day, Oakland made him the team's second round pick, No. 47 overall, in the draft - the same one in which they selected Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the No. 9 overall pick.
This lede, written by San Francisco Chronicle writer David White, is brilliant:
The Raiders either dislocated their shoulder with two draft-day reaches Saturday, or they know something no one else in the NFL does.
Needless to say, the Raiders' helpless position in comparison to the rest of the league was bolstered even further based on their first two picks. Heyward-Bey is having something of a revival after he landed with the Colts.
It was very similar for Mitchell with the Panthers. The new Raiders regime cleared out several of the team's former inhabitants, and he was a step away from being out of the NFL before Carolina gave him the proverbial one-year all-or-nothing deal (Editor's note: it's almost eerie how we ran a photo of Mitchell on March 11 chasing after former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall) He had a $1 million contract, and he moved from his traditional strong safety position to free safety when Charles Godfrey blew out his Achilles in Week 2.
Mitchell started in Week 3, and never looked back, logging 67 tackles, four interceptions and four sacks on the season.
Mitchell, all snark unintended, had a better pass-rushing season than did Steelers rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Maybe the Raiders' personnel department smiled a bit watching Mitchell's success throughout 2013. Though unconfirmed, judging by the displacement and upheaval of a huge portion of that franchise over the last few years, they're likely somewhere else or out of the profession. It raises an interesting thought, and one typically overlooked this time of the year. The conditions in which a draft pick is placed has as much impact on their future growth than their workout measurements. As much as their film, even.
And how fair is that for the player? Heyward-Bey didn't specifically ask to be the seventh overall pick in that draft. Most had him a middle first round prospect, and the rumor was Al Davis entered the Raiders' war room and draft day and moved Heyward-Bey's name plate to the top of their board.
Speed kills in Oakland. Speed results in the deceleration of the careers of those the Raiders pick.
Mitchell parlayed his success with the Panthers - one of the best all-around defenses in the NFL, for which he was the signal-caller despite playing out of position without even a preseason to adjust to his spot - into a 5-year, $25 million deal with the Steelers. Without specific details, it's hard to say whether it's a good deal or a bad one, but one thing is for sure - this is the first time in his career Mitchell was in control of a decision as a player in which he had multiple options.
Few are likely to recognize the importance and value of landing in the right place for the right reasons. Because of his past, the Steelers should be very excited about his future.