Setting Realistic Expectations for Each Pittsburgh Steelers Free-Agent Signing

Dan Snyder@@dsnyder34Correspondent IMarch 17, 2014

Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell (21) runs on the the field during player introductions before the start of an NFL football game  in Charlotte, NC, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. (AP Photo / Mike McCarn)
MIKE MCCARN/Associated Press

Another offseason has come and another pretty inactive free-agency period has gone by for the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, the team did make some waves, including one on the first day.

But the biggest question is how can the newly added players make an immediate impact on the Steelers lineup. Let’s check it out.

Mike Mitchell, Safety

2013 Stats: 50 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4 INTs, 2 FF, 8 PD

Once, Mike Mitchell was considered an “extreme reach” after the Raiders made him the 47th overall pick in the 2009 draft. Four very average seasons later, Mitchell left Oakland and signed a trial contract with the Panthers.

What a fit it was.

Mitchell had the best season of his career in Carolina, setting highs in almost every statistical category. He was also one of the most balanced safeties in the league, adding sacks, tackles and turnovers to his repertoire.

That season led the Steelers to commit five years to the 26-year-old safety and a future building block of the defense. Mitchell is slated to replace Ryan Clark, and he has the skill set to succeed in the defense. He’s an aggressive, downhill player who made plays all over the field in 2013. If Mitchell can play as well in 2014, the Steelers have themselves a bargain.

2014 Projection: 60 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 FF


Cam Thomas, Nose Tackle

2013 Stats: 17 total tackles, 1 INT

Last offseason, the Steelers released longtime nose tackle Casey Hampton. That may have been a big mistake. Pittsburgh was a dismal 21st against the run, giving up 115.6 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry on the ground in 2013.

That led the Steelers to the free-agent market and paired them with former San Diego Chargers fifth-rounder Cam Thomas.

The 6’3”, 330-pound Thomas is a perfect fit for the middle of the Steelers 3-4 front, especially given the unsuccessful play of Steve McLendon. If the Steelers can coach Thomas up, he could be a saving grace, and a pretty cheap option for the Pittsburgh front. But Thomas needs to play better than he has in San Diego.

2014 Projection: 25 total tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FF