Steelers Sign Mike Mitchell
Pittsburgh signed FS Mike Mitchell to a five-year, $25 million deal with $5.25 million in guaranteed money. Mitchell steps in for the departed Ryan Clark and will work with SS Troy Polamalu to hold down the back end of the defense.
Perhaps you didn’t catch many Panthers games last year and you’re saying, “Who in the name of steel curtains is Mike Mitchell?” Well, first off, he’s a speedy, hard-hitting ball hawk who is fresh off of a breakout season in Carolina, but he’s perhaps better known as the guy who injured Rams’ QB Sam Bradford and then appeared to revel in it.
When Carolina’s Charles Godfrey went down in Week 2, Mitchell stepped in and took over a starting role. He put up 66 total tackles (50 solo), 3.5 sacks, four interceptions, eight passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. Those numbers ranked him as the No. 23 DB in PFF’s IDP scoring … and that’s after not seeing a snap until midway through the second game. With similar production in Pittsburgh, he could find himself in the DB2/3 conversation.
For the first four years of his career in Oakland, Mitchell looked like just another Al Davis draft bust, so it’s a bit concerning that he has only one season of fantasy production on his resume. Plus with Polamalu stalking around near the line of scrimmage, Mitchell will end up playing deep quite a bit, which would seemingly hurt his chance at run stops.
But Clark has shown the Pittsburgh free safety spot can produce decent tackle numbers. He posted 100 or more total tackles each of the last three years, and he amassed more than 60 solos in four of the last five seasons. Plus, Mitchell’s speed and physicality will allow him ample opportunity to get in on plays.
Since he spent most of his Raiders’ career just floundering around, 2013 was the first time he was really relied upon, so he actually may still have some room to improve.
Polamalu has spent nearly a decade working alongside Clark, but Mitchell tagging in for Clark shouldn’t affect Polamalu’s numbers much. His high mileage and injury history are bigger worries in that department.
Mitchell’s addition appears to leave Pittsburgh’s second-year safety Shamarko Thomas out in the cold for the time being. The Steelers traded up in the third round of the 2013 draft to get Thomas, and he should figure into their future plans, but he may not see the field much in 2014 unless/until Mitchell or Polamalu gets injured.
The Panthers will probably look back to Godfrey to fill Mitchell’s spot. Godfrey has plenty of experience working in their secondary, and he should be recovered from his Achilles injury. They also have Robert Lester, a player who thrived under Nick Saban at Alabama, but who has struggled as a pro.
Quintin Mikell, who started 14 games at strong safety for the Panthers last year, is a free agent, but they may look to bring him back. Mikell’s numbers took a tumble in 2013 and he will turn 34 soon, so even if he’s brought back, Carolina should look to keep adding to its secondary through free agency or the draft.
In terms of fantasy value, Mitchell has the potential to put up strong numbers in Pittsburgh. That being said, he’s never been the most consistent player, so his IDP value will fluctuate throughout the season. For now, it’s safe to slot Mitchell in the DB3 tier.
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Johnny B. Davis is a staff writer for PFF Fantasy. He likes to root out raw, young dynasty talent and spread the gospel of IDP. Follow Johnny on Twitter @JohnnyBDavis