With the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals underway, many sports fans marvel at just how tough hockey players are. It isn't out of the question to see a hockey player take a puck or stick to the face, leave the ice with a huge laceration and return with fresh stitches...never missing a shift.
Hockey players are a different breed. After the season ends you hear about players who played through torn ligaments, broken bones and other injuries which will require offseason surgery. When comparing hockey players to other sports, they are the predominant "tough guys".
After all, there are always those situations in the NFL when players might miss time for far less, in comparison. However, one member of the Pittsburgh Steelers would fit right in with hockey players in terms of toughness. That would be safety Mike Mitchell.
Since being acquired from the Carolina Panthers in 2014, check out the list of injuries Mitchell has endured while donning a black and gold uniform.
Pair of detached groins.
Those aren't your typical pulled hamstrings either. Those are injuries which could have players miss a significant amount playing time. With that said, it should be noted Mitchell hasn't missed a game due to injury since signing with Pittsburgh.
"If I can drag myself out there, I am going to play," Mitchell told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "(Art) Rooney pays me to play 16 games, so I am going to play 16 games. If I can go out there, I am going to go out there. I know a lot of guys with the injuries that I have had would definitely miss significant time. I can honestly say that I haven't missed a game. I played through everything."
Mitchell's first season with the Steelers was a rough one, largely due to the groin injury which occurred in training camp and lasted the entire season. It was 2015, still battling through injuries, where Mitchell bounced back in a big way contributing 80 combined tackles, 3 interceptions, 9 passes defended and 2 forced fumbles. Mitchell would like to play a full season without any major injuries, and he is doing everything under his power to do that in 2016.
The torn labrum he suffered in 2015 needed to be surgically repaired, and will leave him out of commission until training camp, but that hasn't stopped Mitchell from attending every single OTA the team has had this offseason.
"The goal is to be ready and hit the ground running for training camp." Mitchell said. "I am going to listen to my body and if I am not ready, I am not ready. We are being smart and can't rush it. We are taking our time and doing it the right way until I am ready."
For those fans who might stress about the rapport Mitchell could be having with either Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden or second round pick Sean Davis, Mitchell doesn't believe it will make a huge difference.
"The real relationship is going to be made later in camp when we are putting in a real game plan," Mitchell said. "Right now, this is football-like. To risk further injury? This isn't the time for it. I would like to play 16 full games at 100 percent healthy, but I have yet to be able to do that."
If Mitchell has proven anything since coming to Pittsburgh, it is how he is "hockey tough". Whether he can skate and handle a puck is unknown, but looking at what he did in 2015 with all those injuries only makes the prospect of him staying healthy in the back end for 2016 even more promising.