A day after getting cornerback Ike Taylor to accept a $4.75 million pay cut, the Steelers wasted no time spending that extra money.
Looking to upgrade their takeaway ability in the secondary, the Steelers made a rare move on the opening day of free agency, signing former Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell to a five-year, $25-million contract.
The 26-year-old Mitchell played just one season for the Panthers after signing a one-year, $1 million contract with Carolina in 2013 after four seasons with Oakland.
In 15 games in 2013, including 14 starts, he recorded 66 tackles, four interceptions, four sacks and two forced fumbles. A second-round draft pick out of Ohio University by Oakland in 2009, Mitchell has appeared in 76 career games, recording 206 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks and six interceptions.
“Pittsburgh!!!!! First I have to thank God for this blessing and Mr. Rooney and the Steelers organization for such a great opportunity,” Mitchell said on his Twitter account.
Considered a strong blitzer and big hitter, the 6-0, 210-pound Mitchell ran a 4.39 40-yard dash in 2009 at his college pro day.
The Steelers had just 10 interceptions in each of the past two seasons and are looking to improve that total next season.
Ryan Clark, whom the Steelers signed Mitchell to replace, had two interceptions in each of the past two seasons and 12 total in eight seasons with Pittsburgh.
Clark, 34, is an unrestricted free agent and said Monday night on his Twitter account that the Steelers did not make an effort to retain him.
He did, however, take to Twitter following Mitchell’s signing.
“Congrats brother,” Clark tweeted to Mitchell. “You have the opportunity to play in the greatest football city in the world. Enjoy it. It’s a blessing!”
With the additional of Mitchell, the Steelers appear to be set at the safety position. The team extended the contact of Pro Bowl strong safety Troy Polamalu through 2016 last week and re-signed veteran Will Allen. The Steelers also used a fourth-round draft pick on safety Shamarko Thomas last year.