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Insider Only BACKLASH AGAINST MIKE MITCHELL IS WARRANTED AND 100% ACCURATE

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BACKLASH AGAINST MIKE MITCHELL IS WARRANTED AND 100% ACCURATE

Over 14 years of covering Pittsburgh sports, I haven’t exactly built a reputation of wilfully pandering to the loud majority-fan opinion. (The Pitt Panther fan response I got to this recent piece on Pat Narduzzi was proof of that.

But when it comes to Mike Mitchell I’m going to do so. Steeler fan backlash against the safety is completely warranted and 100% accurate. And the media-shaming of Steeler fans for their reactions to him has been over the top.

As we know by now, Mitchell has been having an excellent season following an injury addled bust of a first year in Pittsburgh. But while his play has improved, his self control hasn’t. In 2015 he’s picked up a needless taunting penalty after a third down stop vs the Bengals. He failed to realize a fumble was loose after a big hit he applied vs the Raiders because he was too busy mugging to the crowd. And he celebrated a big hit in the St. Louis game after a receiver had just caught a first down right in front of him.

I’m sorry, but none of that is ok. It just isn’t. That’s all post whistle crap which didn’t need to happen. All of it either did hurt the team or could’ve hurt the team. And any criticism from fans of Mitchell for it is totally justified.

Yet many in the Pittsburgh media have decided to rally around Mitchell in the wake of what I firmly believe to be well earned slings and arrows.

1. Here’s one example:

2. Here’s a second example:

My TribLive Radio colleague/Steeler beat writer Mark Kaboly, and my Steeler Radio Network postgame show partner Charlie Batch have also stated staunch support for Mitchell on air since the Raider game.

I don’t get it.

I like all those guys personally and professionally very much. And they are all very good at their given jobs in this field. But I’m completely on the other side of the fence with my fellow Steeler media types when it comes to Mike Mitchell.

I’m not sure where all the support is coming from? Is it guilt that the media was too hard on him last year while he silently toughed it out through injury? So now we feel the need to overcompensate this year? That’s my guess.

But that shouldn’t have to be the case.

#1…If we had no clue how hurt he was, and no one told us, we had every right to call it as we saw it with his on field performance. It’s not our fault the severity of his injury was hidden from the public.

#2…His play in 2015 isn’t in question. His dumbass post whistle antics are.

As much of a critic of Mitchell as I have been, even I can say his play this year has been way “above the line” (that was for you, Coach Tomlin). In fact I’d go so far as to say we haven’t seen a Steeler safety play this well since Troy Polamalu in 2010.

I’ve got no problem saying that, and I don’t like the guy. Why does his performance and his persona need to be mutually inclusive topics? Why can’t I (and the fans) blame him for ignoring live balls on the ground and over celebrating, while at the same time praise him for the between-the-whistles job he did to create the celebration? That doesn’t seem to be all that hard of a distinction to make.

Even Tomlin said this week: “I’d like them to be aware the ball is on the ground.” Tomlin, as always the master of brevity, just summed up my personal criticism.

A lot of Pittsburgh fans didn’t like Barry Bonds. He was an MVP. A lot of Pittsburghers didn’t like Jaromir Jagr’s attitude. He’s a Cup champ and a Hall of Famer.

Mike Mitchell has been here a season and a half. He’s above average. Why can’t we have a split opinion on him too?

I’m sure this comes off as grumpy, old, white guy “GET OFF MY LAWN” kind of talk. It isn’t. Go ahead and stay on my lawn all you want. Celebrate to the crowd while you stand in my garden for all I care. But if someone from the other team fumbles on my lawn, please fall on it before you tell me how great you are. That’s all I ask.

About The Author

Tim Benz

TIOPS Columnist

Tim Benz can be heard on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network post game show and M-F 10-1 on TribLive Radio

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