Steelers expected to release safety Mike Mitchell
The transformation of the Steelers defense will include more than a new starting inside linebacker next season.
The Steelers are expected to have a new starter in the secondary in 2018 after the impending release of free safety Mike Mitchell.
Mitchell has one more year remaining on his five-year, $25 million contract, but he won't get to see it through to completion. The NFL Network reported Friday that Mitchell will be released next week in an effort to provide salary-cap relief.
On his Twitter account, Mitchell responded to the NFL Network report by writing, "It is what it is."
The #Steelers are expected to release Mike Mitchell next week, source said. With a $5M salary, they are up against it with the cap. They are open to bringing him back at a lower rate, though. https://t.co/BlspGl4ozY— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2018
The report was not surprising. Mitchell, who will turn 31 in June, is coming off a season in which he made few big plays and missed the first three games of his Steelers career because of injury. Mitchell is scheduled to make $5 million in base salary and would count $8.13 million against the salary cap.
Releasing Mitchell – it's possible the Steelers could try to bring him back at a lesser salary – would provide the Steelers some much-needed cap space entering free agency on Wednesday. The Steelers are about $1 million under the cap after restructuring wide receiver Antonio Brown's contract.
The savings would be $5 million minus the cost to replace Mitchell on the roster with a player making the NFL minimum.
Mitchell had no interceptions, two passes defensed and 53 tackles last year in 13 games that included 12 starts. He missed his first game in four years with the Steelers on Oct. 1 when he sat out against Baltimore with a hamstring injury. Mitchell later missed games against Tennessee and Cincinnati with ankle injuries.
The absence of Mitchell would allow the Steelers to move third-year safety Sean Davis from strong safety to free safety. The Steelers could address strong safety in the draft or free agency, plus they have J.J. Wilcox ($3.125 million base salary) on the roster. The only other safeties on the roster with NFL experience are Robert Golden, mainly a special teams player, and Jordan Dangerfield, who spent last year on the practice squad.
Davis, cornerback Artie Burns and nose tackle Javon Hargrave were part of a youth movement on defense when they became starters as rookies in 2016. Rookie outside linebacker T.J. Watt became a starter last season.