The Pittsburgh Steelers need a lot from their secondary in 2017 if they want any chance of competing for a Super Bowl.
Last season, the clear weak spot on this team was the defensive backfield. Artie Burns, Ross Cockrell, and William Gay were not serious threats on the outside, and Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell has subpar years at best. This year, however, Pittsburgh should expect a lot more from their hard-hitting veteran safety.
Mike Mitchell had one thing holding him back last season; A young secondary. With two rookie starters and a second-year team member in Cockrell, Mitchell was the only player in the defensive backfield with any leadership ability.
In 2017, though, he’ll be a part of a more experienced group of players, taking a lot of pressure off his play. When he doesn’t have to keep an eye on everyone else’s work, he should be able to return to his star potential.
As we’ve seen before, Mitchell could cause turnovers through the air. In his only season with the Carolina Panthers he finished with four interceptions, and two years ago in Pittsburgh, he picked off three balls. For a safety who’s known for how hard he can hit, three INTs in a season is pretty impressive.
Now, Mitchell’s role will be safety. No longer will he have to teach these young players where to be and when to be there. Instead, he’ll be able to play with them and allow his teammates to work in unity. When the rest of the secondary is playing their game and Mitchell can focus on his assignments, he’ll have a much bigger impact on this team.
With less pressure, Mitchell should return to his star form. If Sean Davis can continue to become the young stud he should last season, the Steelers’ safeties could be one of the biggest turnarounds of the offseason.
Either way, 2017 is going to be a much better year for the 29-year-old. He’ll use every chance he can to prove he’s back and with the added depth in this secondary, he’ll have a much easier time making plays.
Unless Artie Burns or Davis come out firing on all cylinders, this could be the year Mitchell leads this secondary. Like Pittsburgh has hoped from the beginning, this bruising defensive back will be the face of Pittsburgh’s coverage team, and will be the heart and soul behind a success 2017 season.
This season, expect a Mike Mitchell Pittsburgh has yet to see but will love to have in their defensive backfield.