Mike Mitchell: 'I've adjusted' to rules

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers safety Mike Mitchell's 2014 season could serve up proof that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's player-safety initiative is working.

Mitchell, who accused Goodell of targeting him last season, pledged Wednesday to play within rules that prohibit helmet-to-helmet hits among other things.

"I've adjusted to the new rules changes and just looked forward to playing clean football and not getting fined this year," said Mitchell, who was fined at least five times last season while with the Carolina Panthers. "At the end of the day, they're just trying to crack down on the rules, and I've adjusted my game to fit within those rules."

Mitchell sounded a completely different tone late last October.

After getting fined for taunting, Mitchell lashed out at Goodell and said he had been fined at least 10 times since the NFL started cracking down on above-the-shoulder hits in 2010.

"I'm just being targeted because I play football and am physical," Mitchell said last year.

Mitchell said after the Steelers' second OTA practice that he does not believe Goodell or the NFL is out to get him.

His changed stance -- at least publicly -- is ironic since Mitchell now plays for a team whose players have not been shy about zinging Goodell or outright ripping him for changes made to the game in the name of player safety.

Former Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison and free safety Ryan Clark were among Goodell's most vocal and persistent critics in past years. And the Steelers were the only team that voted against the collective bargaining agreement in 2011 because players were concerned that the deal that ended a contentious lockout left too much power in Goodell's hands.

The Steelers signed Mitchell in March to take over for Clark, and the fifth-year veteran said big hits don't excite him as much as making interceptions on the back end of the defense. Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Steelers, intercepted a career-high four passes in 2013.

"I want to get the football," he said. "If you take the ball away and give it to a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger, you're mostly likely going to win those games. I'll hit you if I'm late, but I don't want to be late. I want to take the football away and give it back to my offense."