Mike Mitchell won the press conference.
He praised the Steelers’ tradition and the Steelers’ style and the Steelers’ players (even referencing fellow safety Troy Polamalu as “arguably the best player to ever play my position”) and the Steeler’s coaches and even Steeler Nation.
“I made the announcement (about coming to Pittsburgh) at 6 p.m. (Tuesday) and I’ve already got close to 10,000 more followers,” on Twitter, Mitchell pointed out on Thursday afternoon on the South Side. “You can feel it.
“I feel very welcomed. It’s a very warming feeling.”
That warming feeling will last until Mitchell is nowhere near where he should be and Ike Taylor is giving up more than half the field on a deep ball to Torrey Smith.
For now, Mitchell is perceived as the answer to 8-8, or at least one of them.
He’s that rarest of breeds, a first-day free agent the Steelers are adding rather than subtracting via a transaction in the 20-something millions.
It remains to be seen where he fits and what type of difference Mitchell can make on the field.
NFL scouts’ opinions vary, as they did when the Raiders made Mitchell an out-of-nowhere, second-round pick from Ohio University in 2009.
There’s a belief in the profession Mitchell is a better talker than a player and that he doesn’t cover very well.
Doesn’t sound like much of a new center fielder, does it?
Then again, Polamalu might not be that guy, either, not unless his knowledge of the game and opponents and formations and his ability to anticipate (that was a little off last season, too, by the way) can compensate for his diminishing ability to cover real estate in a hurry.
The Steelers clearly think highly enough of Mitchell to make the commitment to him that they have, and enough of Polamalu to perceive him as part of the solution for next season as opposed to part of the problem from last season.
So perhaps this will work out just fine somehow.
In the meantime, here’s what’s most intriguing about Mitchell upon his arrival:
-He’s not Ryan Clark. The safety position was most responsible for the big-play problem a season ago (11 runs or passes of at least 51 yards). Of the two, Polamalu was by far the one worth keeping and the one worth betting on to play better this season.
-Mitchell is coming off a one-year deal in Carolina, a contract he accepted in an attempt to re-establish himself after being buried for four years in Oakland.
“We took Carolina up on a one-year deal,” Mitchell explained. “We actually had offers for more years but I was really just banking on myself. I tried to make the most of that opportunity.”
-He doesn’t necessarily think his reputation as a trash-talker is undeserved or a bad thing.
“Sometimes I might not be talking trash,” Mitchell pointed out. “I could just be showing passion and emotion. But I’m not going to lie; you guys see how I play the game. I play with a very big chip on my shoulder. Just because you went to LSU and I went to Ohio, you’re no better than me. I look forward to proving that every single Sunday.”
-He doesn’t think he’s played anywhere near his best football yet.
“I’m a work in progress,” Mitchell insisted. “As human beings we’re all getting better at life. We’re all getting better in our respective fields and I’m no different. Every year I feel I’m getting better. I’m getting smarter. I take care of my body better. Everything about my game is just developing.
“Now that I get the opportunity to learn from a guy like Troy Polamalu and learn from Coach LeBeau (defensive coordinator Dick) and Mike Tomlin, the opportunity is just way too good. I feel like the sky’s the limit.”
Given all of that the Steelers might potentially be onto something.
This much we know right now:
Their defense needs an infusion of youth, ball-tracking ability (sacks, tackles and forced fumbles count as such as well as playing the ball in the air) and attitude.
Maybe 10,000 Twitter followers can’t be wrong.