PITTSBURGH – Forget for a second that organized team activities are voluntary.
Or that strong safety Troy Polamalu skipped most of those offseason practices last year to train in California only to play in every game in 2013 and lead the Steelers in snaps (1,041).
New free safety Mike Mitchell provided maybe the best reason why Polamalu’s absence from Steelers’ OTAs, which started on Tuesday, shouldn’t elicit much more than a collective yawn.
“Right now I’m still learning the playbook,” said Mitchell, who signed with the Steelers in March. “Once I know what I’m doing then he and I can work on changing some things up if we choose to do that.”
Indeed, Mitchell and Polamalu have plenty of time to work together in mandatory minicamp next month and then in training camp.
The OTA sessions should get Mitchell accustomed to playing in the Steelers’ defense. They in turn will provide a fifth-year veteran with a good base before he starts working on his chemistry with Polamalu on the back end of the Steelers’ defense.
Polamalu hasn’t had to deal with much change at free safety throughout his career. He started two seasons with Chris Hope there and spent the past eight seasons with Ryan Clark manning free safety.
Polamalu and Clark started 92 games together, including the postseason, and they played so well off one another because of their familiarity with each other and their close friendship. Mitchell said he won’t have a hard time developing a good rapport with Polamalu.
“I think it will be fine,” the former Carolina Panthers safety said. “He’s a veteran, I’m a veteran. It shouldn’t take long as long as we both know what we’re doing.”
Mitchell doesn’t expect to see Polamalu until minicamp, which runs from June 20-22 and concludes the Steelers’ offseason.
“I’m sure he’s probably getting himself right and getting himself in shape for the season,” Mitchell said. “He reached out to me when I signed and just said he can’t wait to work with me. I can’t wait to meet him in person.”