Mike Mitchell, whom the Steelers signed to replace Clark at free safety, is looking to develop a similar rapport with Polamalu. The fifth-year veteran is also hoping Polamalu can help him take another step after he made a significant jump last season in Carolina.
“I think learning from arguably the best player ever to play the safety position, it’s only going to be good things from this experience,” Mitchell said. “I just look forward to seeing how he works, seeing how he practices, seeing how he studies. I don’t know if I’m going to be jumping over the line of scrimmage to be make those types of crazy plays, but hopefully there’s some things I can pick up from him that will one day make me a great player.”
Mitchell played his first four seasons in Oakland and said he never really had a mentor there because the Raiders' defense was so young. Mitchell thrived after signing with Carolina and joining a defense that led the NFL with 60 sacks in 2013.
The Steelers would love for Mitchell's growth to continue in Pittsburgh, and right now the biggest question in regard to the kind of pairing he and Polamalu will make is how much the two will work together during the offseason.
Polamalu had generally skipped offseason training activites (OTAs), which are optional, earlier in his career. But the 11th-year veteran has been more of a presence at those practices the past two years.
There is no reason to think that won't continue, especially with Polamalu having to adjust to a new free safety after playing eight seasons with Clark.
That Mitchell is so self-assured about his own abilities yet so eager to learn from an eight-time Pro Bowler is one reason why he made such a strong first impression at his introductory news conference on Thursday.
“Now that I get to learn from a guy like Troy Polamalu and learn from coach (Dick) LeBeau and Mike Tomlin the opportunity is just way too good,” Mitchell said, “and I feel like the sky is the limit.”