Leading up to Super Bowl 52, James Harrison, of the New England Patriots, was asked about his legacy with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After a rocky departure from the team midway through the season, Harrison drew the ire of fans across the globe.
He didn’t seem to care too much, citing Franco Harris ending his career with the Seattle Seahawks, not the Steelers, but every player who ever dons the black-and-gold leaves some sort of legacy.
Some legacies are written in stone, never to be forgotten.
Players like “Mean” Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jerome Bettis, Troy Polamalu and many more.
Some legacies are written, but would be better off being forgotten.
If Mike Mitchell has played his final snap in the Steel City, I would put his Pittsburgh legacy among the latter, not the former.
Signed as a free agent after a tremendous 4 interception season with the Carolina Panthers, Mitchell has done very little to live up to the hype, and his contract.
His tenure in Pittsburgh has been riddled with injuries. While a player cannot always help the fact they are injured, there is something to be said about those who can stay healthy, and ultimately stay on the field.
Mitchell dealt with groin, hamstring, ankle and shoulder injuries while in Pittsburgh, and, to his credit, he usually played through almost all of those injuries. Toughness was never the question with Mitchell, but production was.
In his four years in Pittsburgh, Mitchell has tallied 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 23 pass defenses. All while never registering a sack. Compared to his time with the Oakland Raiders and Panthers, Mitchell production fell of a cliff when he came to the Steelers.
On top of the production woes, Mitchell was a player who fans didn’t respond well to considering his knack for being a bit too vocal, and sometimes at the wrong times. For the record, Steelers fans are okay with players who talk trash. Joey Porter is still a fan favorite, and no one talked more trash than Porter in his day, but Porter knew when to run his mouth.
The news of Mitchell’s talk before the Jaguars playoff game, and celebrating big hits in strange situations just compounded the overall fan reaction to Mitchell’s play, and his demeanor in doing so.
Although Mitchell claims to not care what fans think of him, or his style of play, his fan relations certainly say the complete opposite. Mitchell is known for blocking anyone, or website, on social media who may have ever criticized him at any point. In fact, Mitchell has blocked the official BTSC Twitter account for years, long before I became the editor of said establishment.
This has lead to many speculating Mitchell’s time in Pittsburgh has expired. This from Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
In some instances, those long pass plays were short completions that turned into big gains, in part because of poor tackling and bad angles in the back end. The Steelers want to address both — and correct both in the offseason.
And they could start with Mike Mitchell.
He is scheduled to count $8.1 million against the salary cap in 2018, a large number for a player who has just one interception, no forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries the past two seasons. More significantly, it has also become apparent to the coaching staff Mitchell cannot run well enough anymore to be effective, perhaps because of a series of injuries.
In any event, they will likely part ways with the 10-year veteran and seek a safety in free agency or select one high in the draft — or both. Each of the past two starters at free safety — Mitchell and Ryan Clark — were signed in free agency, so it is possible the Steelers could pursue that route again.
Mitchell may be back, and I wouldn’t be stunned if that happened, but there is a strong feeling he may be a salary cap casualty heading into the 2018-2019 season. If the team does release Mitchell, it is safe to say his Steelers legacy would be one to forget.