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Mike Mitchell still hoping to play in Week 1, otherwise J.J. Wilcox is ready to deliver

The Pittsburgh Steelers safety is hoping to be on the field in Week 1, but if not, J.J. Wilcox is preparing to fill in alongside Sean Davis.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Pittsburgh Steelers Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

When a player doesn’t even see the field since the first padded practice of training camp, it is never a good thing.

That is exactly the situation Steelers safety Mike Mitchell is dealing with as he has been hampered with a reported hamstring injury all training camp and preseason. Nonetheless, the safety vowed to play in Week 1, and continued to be hopeful for his return this Sunday when the team heads to Cleveland to play the Browns.

The Steelers organization had the foresight to go out and get a quality safety to be on the roster in case Mitchell can’t play, and, yes, that is a direct slap-in-the-face to the usual top backup safety, Robert Golden.

The newly acquired J.J. Wilcox is the man who is expected to play if Mitchell can’t, but he will have to digest a lot of information in a very short amount of time to be able to not just play, but do his job within the Steelers’ defense.

As he told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“This defense here is pretty stellar,” said Wilcox. “You have guys who are Pro Bowlers who know how to win, know how to get the job done. For me, it’s how fast can I pick up the playbook and help this defense out. That’s my goal this week.”

“It’s just different terminology,” Wilcox said. “Football is football. Defense is defense, but you have different languages. Those are the things I have to pick up on as soon as possible. This is a stellar defense. They can’t lack at any position on the field so I have to come in and pick it up as fast as possible.

“I rotated in. A lot of the DBs were helping me, the LBs, the D-line, the coaching staff. I’m excited. I have some stuff to study, but I tell you what, I’ll be giving it 100 percent Sunday against Cleveland.”

Mitchell is known as a big hitter in the NFL, but if he can’t play, there won’t be much of a drop off to Wilcox, if any at all. Wilcox is known for his bruising style of play, and his reputation stretched all the way to Antonio Brown.

The Steelers defense could use a little more “nasty” in their midst, and Wilcox brings just that to the table; however, Mike Mitchell is highly underrated for what he does in the defensive secondary.

If Mitchell is able to play, expect Wilcox to be a hybrid player who is on the field in specific sub packages, something he excelled at doing while with the Dallas Cowboys his first year in the league. Wilcox, like Mitchell, is not a rookie, so once the playbook and terminology becomes second nature, the rest if just football.

Will it be Mitchell or Wilcox on Sunday? Practice will dictate just that, but for once, the drop off is as precipitous as it once was for the Pittsburgh at the safety position.