But Mitchell also was aware of their division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he quickly found out more about them and their fan base after he signed a five-year contract with the club when free agency began this week.
"I'm big on Twitter, and I read a lot about what people say," Mitchell said Thursday during his opening press conference. "I made the announcement at 6 o'clock, and I've already gotten close to 10,000 more followers. So, the Steelers Nation definitely is alive and going strong. And you can feel it.
"I feel very welcome, and people want to see me do good. So, I can't wait to get to work with my teammates. … My agent was fielding a lot of phone calls, and he was running off a list of teams. (But) as soon as I heard the Steelers, growing up around the Cincinnati area, that was a team you knew about. And being a Bengals fan when I was a kid, you were afraid of them."
Mitchell clearly isn't afraid anymore, and his physical brand of football appears to mesh well with the club's defensive philosophy. So, he jumped at the opportunity to play for the Steelers.
"I know what the franchise is about, and the way that they play football here I really think fits my personality,'' Mitchell said. "It's very hard-nosed and the division, the AFC North, is very physical.
"So, there were just too many things to pass up, and I immediately identified them as a team that I definitely wanted to go to. And I think the feeling was mutual. So, my family and I are extremely excited, and we're very happy to have this opportunity."
Mitchell played his initial four NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders and was a spot-starter there, but his career blossomed as a primary starter this past season for the Carolina Panthers. Mitchell had 66 total tackles with 50 solo stops, 3.5 sacks, eight pass breakups, four interceptions and two forced fumbles during his only season in Carolina.
Mitchell took a chance and signed a one-year contract with the Panthers, and it paid off with a five-year Steelers contract for $25 million. The deal contains $5.75 million guaranteed, a $4.75 million signing bonus and first-year roster bonus of $500,000. His base contract this season is $750,000. It jumps to $2 million next year, plus a $2 million roster bonus due in March, 2015. He will make $5 million from 2016-2018 and be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
No matter how long he lasts with the Steelers, Mitchell's career appears to be on an upswing. And beginning with this offseason, he has an opportunity to pick the brain of Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Dick LeBeau, the Steelers defensive coordinator, and future Hall-of-Fame safety Troy Polamalu.
"It's going to be a great learning experience," Mitchell said. "Really, being a young guy out in Oakland, I really didn't have anybody to learn from. So, anything that I picked up, it's all kind of been on my own. So, learning from, arguably the best player to ever play my position, the safety position, there should be a lot of good things for me from that experience.
Steelers Free Agent Signings
"So, I just look forward to seeing how he works, seeing how he practices and how he studies. I don't know if I'm going to be jumping over the line of scrimmage to make those types of crazy plays. But, hopefully, I can pick up some things from him that one day will make me a great player. (And) if you look at my tape, you see that I can do a decent amount of things pretty well."
And at 27-years-old this summer, Mitchell has a chance to accomplish more.
"I'm here to play safety, so anything the coaches ask me to do I'll be willing to do it," Mitchell added. "This is a great franchise to be playing for, and if there's anything I can do to help us get that seventh (Super Bowl) title I'm going to do it and do it with everything inside of me. I'm a work in progress, (and) I'm continuing to get better and continuing to get smarter.
"I also take care of my body better, so everything about my game is just developing. And to learn from Troy Polamalu, Coach LeBeau and Mike Tomlin, I feel like the sky's the limit. (And) I think that my personality and the way that I play just meshes perfectly with what we're trying to do here (on defense)."
Mitchell already had a previous relationship with two Steelers. He and offensive guard Ramon Foster trained together when the two were preparing for the 2009 NFL Draft. Mitchell and center He also recently worked with center Maurkice Pouncey at Louis Murphy Jr.'s football camp in St. Petersburg, Fla.