PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Mitchell grew up in the Cincinnati area, so his youth was spent as a fan of the Bengals.
Mitchell also was aware of their division rival, the Steelers, and the safety quickly found out more about them and their fan base after he signed a five-year contract with the club when free agency began this week.
“I’m big on Twitter, and I read a lot about what people say,” Mitchell said Thursday. “I made the announcement at 6 o’clock, and I’ve already gotten close to 10,000 more followers. So the Steelers Nation definitely is alive and going strong. And you can feel it.
“I feel very welcome, and people want to see me do good. So I can’t wait to get to work with my teammates. . My agent was fielding a lot of phone calls, and he was running off a list of teams. (But) as soon as I heard the Steelers, growing up around the Cincinnati area, that was a team you knew about. And being a Bengals fan when I was a kid, you were afraid of them.”
Mitchell clearly isn’t afraid anymore, and his physical brand of football appears to mesh well with the club’s defensive philosophy. So, he jumped at the opportunity to play for the Steelers.
“I know what the franchise is about, and the way that they play football here I really think fits my personality,” Mitchell said. “It’s very hard-nosed and the division, the AFC North, is very physical.
“So there were just too many things to pass up, and I immediately identified them as a team that I definitely wanted to go to. And I think the feeling was mutual. My family and I are extremely excited, and we’re very happy to have this opportunity.”
Mitchell played his first four NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders and was a spot starter. His career blossomed as a primary starter last season for Carolina. Mitchell had 66 total tackles with 50 solo stops, 3 1-2 sacks, eight pass breakups, four interceptions and two forced fumbles during his only season in Carolina.
Mitchell took a chance and signed a one-year contract with the Panthers. It paid off this week with a five-year Steelers contract for $25 million. The deal contains $5.75 million guaranteed, a $4.75 million signing bonus and first-year roster bonus of $500,000. His base contract this season is $750,000. It jumps to $2 million next year, plus a $2 million roster bonus due in March 2015. He will make $5 million from 2016-2018 and be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.