Mike Mitchell isn't the first Pittsburgh Steelers safety to feel targeted by the league and officials when it comes to questionable hits during games. The player he replaced, Ryan Clark, felt the same way during his time with the Steelers.
As Mitchell told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "To be honest, I think there is a little bit of a targeting system they have out. I think I'm one of the guys they'd been looking for, but I'm OK with that."
Mitchell might be OK with that, but his bank account might not be. Although Mitchell avoided a fine from the league office for a hit that was flagged against the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday night, he was flagged and fined 10 times since the 2010 season.
Mitchell, like many other hard-hitting defenders in the NFL, has now vowed to 'go low' on receivers, something that no one wants to do for the obvious risk of injury to a fellow competitor.
"It's going to make me start hitting everyone in the knees, to be totally honest with you."
That is a scary proposition for the league as they attempt to make the game safer, but you can't blame defenders for taking that approach considering Mitchell alone was fined $40,000 last year for various infractions.
Surprisingly, Mitchell doesn't put the blame solely on the officials, understanding they have a job to do and that they answer to the league office.
"The referees have a hard job. The league enforces things on them and then they get paid. If I do not do my job, I get fired. If they don't call the stuff they're supposed to call, they get fired."
With concussions decreasing across the NFL landscape, you very well could see career-threatening knee injuries increasing at the same time, and you can't blame players like Mitchell for deciding to start 'going low' when attempting to make a tackle on a receiver.