Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell (23) receives a face mask penalty as he tackles Cleveland Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman (19) in overtime on January 1 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Safety Mike Mitchell opened up to reporters Wednesday, sounding off about the recent rash of suspensions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defender spoke two days after his team beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 on Monday Night Football. That AFC North clash included many fierce hits, including a couple which ended with players leaving the game.
On Tuesday, the NFL suspended Bengals safety George Iloka and Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for their roles in separate altercations. Iloka's one-game suspension was overturned on appearl, but Smith-Schuster will miss the Steelers' Week 14 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
Steelers defender Ryan Shazier spent the night at a Cincinnati hospital while dealing with a spinal contusion. He has since returned to Pittsburgh and is now getting treatment at a UPMC facility.
"We are physical safeties. Think about what you ask us to do," Mitchell told reporters.
"We're always the last line of defense on bang-bang plays. You never get to see us line somebody up in a hole like a linebacker. We're playing full speed. He's 4.4-4.3 speed. Aim that. You go do that. You can't. It's just the risk of playing football. If a ball is in the air and the man jumps and a man ducks his head, how do you want me to readjust my body? You cannot do it. At the end of the day this is Foot-Ball. If you want to see flag football, then let's take our pads off. That would make it easier for me. Now, I don't have to wear heavy [expletive]. Give us flags for me to pull off so that way I know what we are playing. I signed up to play full-speed, contact football. We're not doing that. I feel like I've got to ask a guy, 'Hey, are you ready for me to hit you right now before I hit you? That's crazy. I'm going to mess around and get hurt trying to protect an offensive player because he's running an over route. [Expletive], your quarterback shouldn't have thrown the ball messed up."
Mitchell, who is in his ninth year as a pro, referenced his hit two years ago on Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.
He said he was fined $50,000. He was also hit for $48,000 for his Week 6 hit on Kansas City Chiefs running back Charcandrick West.
Mitchell blamed the Eifert hit on Andy Dalton throwing "a bad ball."
"That's 50 grand out of my pocket because Andy [Dalton] throws a bad ball," he said. "Make that make sense. And at first you're taking our money but now I've got [expletives] like Matt Hasselbeck calling me a dirty player and trying my character and we've never met before. I donate more money to Cincinnati to underprivileged kids than probably the people on the Bengals. So don't give me that name. My nephew goes to school there and I take all that personally. If you don't know me and you've never had a conversation with me, don't judge us on what you see in football, because football's my competitive side. You know what I'm saying? There's just so much going on in the game right now."
Mitchell also said that fans, owners and players are all disappointed in Goodell.
The NFL commissioner signed a five-year contract extension on Wednesday, worth about $40 million annually, according to reports.
"Make it viral #FireGoodell #MakeFootballFootballAgain #FreeJuju," Mitchell tweeted.
Smith-Schuster tweeted that he appreciated the love."
On Wednesday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he didn't think Smith-Schuster deserved the suspension. He compared the hit to the one delivered in Week 14 by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. The All-Pro knocked Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White out of the game Sunday after throwing his body at the defender well after the whistle.
"I didn't think it was warranted," Roethlisberger told reporters. "I thought a fine, a pretty steep fine, something like that. But, you know, I thought what happened -- the play that happened -- happened in the context of a football play. It wasn't away from the ball, wasn't a hit on a kicker, a defenseless player, it was a guy getting ready to make a tackle; a much bigger football player. Obviously, we don't like the taunting, the standing over him, things like that."
"I don't like to compare players and suspensions, things like that, but if you look at what Gronk did and what JuJu did and they got the same suspension -- I don't know if that's necessarily fair," Roethlisberger said. "But that's above all of our pay grades."