PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will hold minicamp in just over a week, and the mandatory practices will give them a small sampling of what they really have at safety.
Troy Polamalu has skipped organized team activities, which are voluntary, so he can train in California. And no one is more excited to get a preview of his pairing with Mike Mitchell on the back end of the Steelers' defense than Mitchell himself.
"I keep hearing so many things about him," Mitchell said. "It's really hard to get to know a guy from phone conversations and text messages, so I look forward to seeing him in person and seeing how he works. I'm in my playbook every night studying my butt off so when he gets here we'll both know the defense."
Mitchell has been mindful to pace himself, something this time of year allows him to do.
The sixth-year veteran puts in his time at Steelers' headquarters watching film and peppering defensive backs coach Carnell Lake with questions when he is not practicing with his new teammates.
But Mitchell spends no more than half an hour a night studying his playbook, and he leaves it alone on the weekends so he doesn't get overwhelmed.
"If you do a little bit every night eventually you have it mastered," said Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Steelers two months ago. "It's kind of like back in college or in high school when you know you have an exam coming up. My exam doesn't start until August when we start playing preseason games."
Mitchell appears to be a quick study through the first two weeks of offseason practices.
The 6-foot, 210-pounder already looks like a good fit on a defense that needed to add playmakers, and the Steelers will be thrilled if Mitchell can build on the breakout season he enjoyed in 2013 with the Carolina Panthers.
Mitchell, who signed with the Panthers after spending his first four NFL seasons in Oakland, intercepted four passes and recorded 3.5 sacks and 66 tackles. The former second-round draft pick combines speed with the kind of mindset that the Steelers need to generate more turnovers after intercepting 20 passes in the past two seasons combined -- only four more than Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman during that span.
"I pride myself on creating turnovers and making positive plays for my team," Mitchell said. "I think if you throw at me I have a good chance to take the ball away from you."
Like Ryan Clark, his predecessor at free safety, Mitchell is not lacking for confidence. But he is also mindful he will have to play within a defense that will employ him in multiple ways.
"I'm not here to work any miracles or anything like that," Mitchell said. "We already have a bunch of good players, guys that have been doing it a long time and guys that are ready to do it so I don't have to try and come in here and save the world by myself."