Mike Mitchell watched the tape of him making contact with Alex Smith’s right leg during the second half of Sunday’s game.
The Steelers veteran safety is aware of how the NFL rule regarding such contact is written. He’s reached out to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert.
And Mitchell is comfortable that he did not intend to injure Smith or tried to deliver a dirty hit.
“At the end of the day, I sleep very well,” Mitchell said Monday afternoon following a mini-firestorm across the league about the hit on Smith. “My teammates know who I am. I know what type of person I am. You look at the play, the play speaks for itself.”
After Smith deftly eluded a blitz by Mitchell on what was the final play of the third quarter, Smith dumped a pass off to Kareem Hunt for a 37-yard gain. Mitchell, attempting to get back into the play, lost his balance when teammate Anthony Chickillo made contact with him from behind, and Mitchell went down into the path of a backtracking Smith.
Smith was immediately angry about the play, and expressed so to Mitchell. Smith after the game also told reporters the hit was “pretty late” and “weird.” Smith stopped short of calling it “dirty” (he said he “had no idea” if it was) — but some analysts and fans from across the league did once a clip of the play began circulating on social media.
While Mitchell said he’s “fresh out of cares of what people that don’t know me think about me,” he defended the play and expressed his respect for Smith.
“I felt myself tripping. I felt myself being pushed. I felt myself losing balance,” Mitchell said. “I was aware of the rule. If you watch the tape, I’m even trying to turn my body while I am falling. Alex is backpedaling into me. I wasn’t even going in the direction of Alex. He actually is throwing and fading away. It’s a lot of things that go into the play that make it an accident that you don’t want to see — but that’s exactly what it is.”
The rule governing low hits on the quarterback reads as such: “No defensive player who has an unrestricted path to the quarterback may hit him flagrantly in the area of the knee(s) or below when approaching in any direction.”
Mitchell said “we will see” when asked if he expected to get fined for the play, one that netted the Chiefs 49 yards and put them deep into Steelers’ territory.
The NFL typically informs players of fines by midweek. Mitchell also perhaps could be subject to a fine for an unpenalized helmet-to-helmet hit on Kansas City running back Charcandrick West.
“I’m not a dirty player,” Mitchell said. “I’m not out here trying to take his legs out. It’s just one of those things you don’t want to see in a football game. It’s unfortunate that it happened because it ended up kind of flipping momentum in the field in a significant way.”