Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Motivation Tactics Free-Agent Addition Mitchell Is Well Aware of His Critics

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Motivation Tactics Free-Agent Addition Mitchell Is Well Aware of His Critics

Article excerpt

New Steelers safety Mike Mitchell is a big fan of social media. He noted in his introductory news conference with reporters Thursday afternoon that his Twitter following grew by 10,000 since he announced his decision to sign a free-agent contract with the team.

Mitchell, then, is well-versed in the criticism he has received in the five years he has been in the NFL. When the Oakland Raiders drafted him in the second round out of Ohio University in 2009, he was labeled a "reach." ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper did not have him as one of his top 40 safeties. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said the Raiders could have taken him five rounds later, in the final round of the draft.

Mitchell spoke about the adversity he faced in Oakland and how in his second season he was "supposed to be out of the league."

Unimpressed with Mitchell's play, Raiders coaches reportedly wanted to cut him in training camp in 2010, but owner Al Davis overruled them.

The critiques smoldered within Mitchell. When he finally got an opportunity to start last season in Carolina, he wore his emotions on his sleeve and delivered some big plays for the Panthers.

"I play with a very big chip on my shoulder," Mitchell said. "Just because you went to LSU and I went to Ohio, you're no better than me, and I look forward to proving that every Sunday."

After the dysfunction in Oakland, Mitchell signed a one-year contract with Carolina in hopes of proving that he was a starting- caliber player. That one season with the NFC South champion Panthers -- one in which he intercepted four passes and recorded four sacks - - granted Mitchell the leverage to sign a better deal with the Steelers.

Mitchell helped the Panthers become a dominant defense. The Panthers were second only to Seattle in scoring and total defense in 2013.

Mitchell only had two interceptions in his first four seasons with the Raiders, but he developed into a ball hawk for the Panthers. He tied for the team lead in interceptions and also led the team with two forced fumbles.

"I just feel like I needed an opportunity in Carolina, and the rest is history," Mitchell said. "Every year, I feel like I'm getting better, getting smarter. …

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