Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp in 32 days (July 25th), and we are digging up the '32 Scenarios in 32 Days' segment to help us all pass the time. Once a day we will be drafting a potential 2015 season scenario, telling you why it will happen, why it won't and giving you important keys for the scenario to take place.
Scenario: Steelers safety Mike Mitchell collects 4 interceptions throughout the 2015 season
Why it will happen: Mike Mitchell played 2014 injured. After suffering a groin injury in training camp, it hindered his mobility and ability to make plays. On top of playing hurt, he had to play alongside the most unpredictable safety in the NFL in Troy Polamalu. When Polamalu was injured in 2014 and Will Allen took his place, Mitchell's play increased as it was a game of responsibilities and not a game of wondering where your teammate might be at the snap of the ball. Whether Shamarko Thomas or Allen are starting alongside Mitchell in 2015, he will have a partner who will be more conventional compared to what Polamalu did in 2014.
On top of his secondary partner, Mitchell will have a year under his belt in the Steelers' defensive system. Despite the change in defensive coordinator, Mitchell should be able to hit the ground running in 2015 rather than trying to learn the system on the fly. Throw in a pass rush which really only has one way to go, and that's up, and Mitchell could be seeing more arrant passes coming his way, which could easily equate to him tying his career best in interceptions with four.
Why it won't happen: Despite Mitchell playing alongside a more conventional safety, the remainder of the secondary remains a gigantic question mark. William Gay is the best cornerback they have on the roster, Cortez Allen is as up-and-down as a yo-yo and Antwon Blake rounds out the cornerbacks with NFL experience. In 2014, many of the breakdowns in the pass defense were from miscommunication and poorly executed assignments. These poor assignments lead to coverage issues, and often time Mitchell looking as if he was exposed, when in reality he was trying to cover ground left by another defensive back's snafu.
Mitchell has the capability of catching the football, but just as the Steelers' pass rush could get better, it could also remain a middle-of-the-road unit, which would lead to much of the same for the Steelers secondary - a quarterback with tons of time to throw and never under duress.
Keys: The keys to Mitchell being able to collect 4 interceptions next season will depend on three things. Mitchell's ability to stay healthy, an improved and more complete secondary surrounding No. 23 and a pass rush which can cause the opposing quarterback to rush throws. If those things can happen, and that is a big 'if', Mitchell could very well collect 4 interceptions next season.