Troy Polamalu has always been spontaneous and a player who's hard to predict, both for opposing players and his own teammates. His chemistry with former Steeler Ryan Clark helped the Steelers' defense to several seasons where it ranked atop the NFL's best.
But with Ryan Clark joining the Washington Redskins and the Steelers' acquiring Mike Mitchell in free agency, one of the main questions was whether Mitchell could communicate effectively with Polamalu and learn to work with his constant pre-snap changes on the defensive side of the ball.
If you ask Mitchell that question, though, he doesn't find it to be an issue. For all the hoopla made about Mitchell's inexperience in playing next to Polamalu, the former Carolina Panther thinks his on-field communication skills are solid.
"Troy does a great job of communicating with me on every single play," Mitchell said. "We talk about alerts we might be doing and if we are going to message the defense a little bit. There are no surprises out there."
Mitchell says the two have worked out their own set of hand signals and other mediums of communication to help each other understand the changes being made before the snap of the ball. As to the notion that Mitchell will need an extended period of time before he feels and looks comfortable in the Steelers' defense, Mitchell disagrees.
"I'm continuing to learn the defense and where everyone fits. I definitely know what I'm doing, but to know where everyone fits, that's when you can really message some things and make some plays. I'll be able to execute just fine."
Mitchell didn't force any turnovers in the preseason and, at some points, he looked out of place in the Steelers defense, often making a tackle downfield after a significant gain by the opposing offense. While he sees the value of preseason games, Mitchell thinks the regular season is the only real proving-ground for his play.
"The preseason's extremely important but this is what we get paid for -- winning these games," Mitchell said, "and I look forward to playing in this game on Sunday."
After netting four interceptions last year with the Carolina Panthers, Mike Mitchell will be looked to by the Steelers to generate similar numbers and increase the turnovers the team put up last season (20). Forcing a turnover Sunday against the Cleveland Browns would be a good start.