A few weeks before the end of the regular season, we asked you in our Voice of the Fan Poll what free agent signing was the biggest disappointment in 2014.
With 45% of the vote, safety Mike Mitchell was the runaway winner ahead of second place finisher Cam Thomas who had 29% of the vote.
While there are cries from many for Mitchell to be cut this offseason, those will go unheard. Mitchell will be a Steeler in 2015 like it or not and I’m starting to wonder if the Steelers don’t have a little change in store for number 23.
Assuming Troy Polamalu retires or agrees to a much lesser role in 2015, look for Mitchell to perhaps make the move to strong safety. With his spot open, look for Shamarko Thomas to finally get his chance to play by becoming the free safety.
Let’s look at some factors. First of all, there isn’t a fan among us that doesn’t realize that Mike Mitchell struggled with coverage in 2014. Whether he was out of position or was just horribly late in coverage, it was a significant problem.
Throw in the fact that Thomas entered the NFL as a guy known for big hits and creating splash-type plays and you have the potential for change. Although he saw just one defensive snap all season, word has it that he was quite impressive in practice all season in terms of his ball-hawking skills.
Which brings us back to Mitchell. For all of his speed and all of his hitting ability, Mitchell forced just two fumbles and also had a big “zero” in the interceptions column.
To suggest the Steelers need to create more turnovers on their back end is a massive understatement. Will Allen was a solid player this season but he doesn’t have the speed of either Thomas or Mitchell and cannot be considered a long-term player in the secondary. He certainly isn’t a turnover guy either.
By moving Mitchell up to the strong safety spot, perhaps the idea will be to give him a little bit less to do in terms of coverage where he clearly struggled. Obvious questions would no doubt be about his tackling ability which was poor at best but maybe playing closer to the line of scrimmage would allow him easier and slower targets.
Whether this comes to fruition or not I cannot say but I feel confident that it could be tinkered with during the mini camps or in training camp.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad and the website @SCBlitz. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/steelcityblitz and on Fancred.com. You can hear him weekly during the season on game day on the Trib-Live Radio Steelers Pre-Game
photo courtesy bleacherreport.com