NFL Free Agency opened today and the Pittsburgh Steelers departed from the script – in a big way – by signing Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell.
The opening of free agency is usually always accompanied by a flurry of big money signings, and the Steelers have traditionally remained on the sidelines through it all. But not in 2014.
Pittsburgh!!!!!! First I have to thank God for this blessing and Mr. Rooney and the Steelers organization for such a great opportunity!
— Mike Mitchell (@MikeMitchell34) March 11, 2014
Mitchell has made no effort to hide his feelings at becoming the latest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Historically, Steelers Opt for Safety Route in Free Agency
No one in Steelers Nation is surprised that the Steelers were looking to make a move in free agency at safety. The move ends any linger chance that Ryan Clark will remain in Pittsburgh, in Clark appears to know that:
Congrats to Mike Mitchell and the Pittsburgh Steelers!! It has been a pleasure playing for 1 of the best organizations in sports!! God bless
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) March 11, 2014
- Those moves cap a deep Steelers history in free agency at safety.
Free agency began in the NFL with the Freeman McNeil verdict. When the jury issued its judgment, the Steelers had Louis Lipps and Thomas Everett as unsigned holdouts. Rather than allow Everett to become a free agent, the Steelers traded him to the Dallas Cowboys.
- The Everett move however would signal a trend, as Darren Perry, Carnell Lake, Lee Flowers and Chris Hope would all go on to become Steelers starting safeties that left via free agency.
It took a while, but since the advent the Steelers have dipped frequently in to the free agency pool to add both depth and starters at safety. Bo Orlando came to Pittsburgh in 1998.
Steelers Nation can be forgiven for forgetting Orlando’s one year one start stint in Pittsburgh.
And if they’ve forgotten about Orlando, Steelers Nation certainly wishes they could forget Travis Thomas’s disastrous 1999 tenure at safety.
- Both of those were Tom Donahoe’s moves. Fortunately, Kevin Colbert has proven to be a better scout at safety.
It was under Colbert that the Steelers signed Brent Alexander and Mike Logan, two under the radar free agents who both contributed as starters and valuable backups. IT was under Colbert that Myron Bell and Ainsley Battles returned to play bit roles as free agent safeties.
- The aforementioned Will Allen, also joined the Steelers following the 2009 season.
Colbert’s biggest splash, to date that is, in free agency, was the move to bring Ryan Clark to Pittsburgh on the heels of Chris Hope’s post Super Bowl XL departure.
The Skinny on Mitchell
Mitchell entered the league as a surprise 2nd round pick for the Oakland Raiders. He only started 9 games with the Raiders, but played in 15 games for Carolina starting 13 seeing action at both the free and strong safety slots.
- Interestingly enough, Mitchell had 4 interceptions on a stout Carolina defense – double Ryan Clark’s total of the last two years.
Mitchell also forced two fumbles and 3 and a half sacks, both welcome numbers on a defense that has been too turnover and too sack starved over the last several seasons.
According to veteran Steelers beat reporter Dale Lolley, Mitchell and the Steelers agree to terms on a 5 year, 25 million dollar contract, although the size of the signing bonus has not been revealed.
The addition of Mitchell provides some much needed depth for the Steelers at secondary, leaving Mitchell and Polamalu as the presumed starters, with Shamarko Thomas waiting in the wings, and Will Allen providing a veteran presence on the bench. The Steelers also have 2012 training camp darling Robert Golden on the roster, although he could now find himself on the bubble.
Welcome to Steelers Nation Mike Mitchell.