A.J. Green on Steelers’ Mitchell: He’s not a dirty player

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Bengals know what to expext from Steelers D

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

You can count Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green among those coming to the defense of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Mike Mitchell following another controversial hit.

“I don’t feel he’s a dirty player, man,” Green said. “He just plays with a lot of emotions.”

Mitchell and Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin spent time earlier this week defending the safety’s low hit from behind on Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith on Sunday, saying he was pushed and/or tripped on the play.

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“At the end of the day, I sleep very well,” Mitchell said Monday afternoon in the aftermath of criticism from across the league. “My teammates know who I am. I know what type of person I am. You look at the play, the play speaks for itself.”

The league thought it spoke for itself as well and, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, fined Mitchell $48,620 for the hit, which drew a 15-yard penalty. And ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Mitchell drew another fine for a facemask – which was not called – on the same play when he missed a tackle against Smith in the pocket before chasing him down and hitting him from behind.

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Mitchell also has a history with the Bengals, and with Green specifically.

In the 2014 regular-season finale at Heinz Field, Mitchell’s helmet-to-helmet hit after Green had fumbled left the Pro Bowl receiver with a concussion that knocked him out of the game and kept him from playing in the wildcard playoff loss at Indianapolis the following week.

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“It was a hit. It happens,” Green said. “I don’t think nothing dirty was about it. He plays very aggressive. When they had Ryan Clark, Ryan Clark played the same way. Come down and hit you. It’s what it is — football.”

Mitchell was not penalized or fined for the hit, which came just after Antwon Blake had stripped Green following a first-down reception at the Pittsburgh 30 with 3:51 remaining and the Bengals trailing 20-17.

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The following year in a Week 14 game at Paul Brown Stadium, Mitchell hit tight end Tyler Eifert in the head on the opening drive of the game. Mitchell was flagged 15 yards for a hit on a defenseless receiver and eventually fined $23,152.

Eifert stayed in the game for the remainder of the drive — the one that ended with quarterback Andy Dalton breaking his thumb tackling Stephon Tuitt after throwing an interception — before being diagnosed with a concussion that knocked him out of the game and forced him to miss the next two.

Green said he expects to feel Mitchell’s presence Sunday when the teams renew their rivalry at Heinz Field.

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“It’s a man’s game,” Green said. “Can’t just go out there and whine about it. That’s his style of play. That’s what makes him a starting safety in this league, and he’s a good one, he’s a great one.”

Green said he and Mitchell have had words, but the not the type usually heard when the two teams get together.

“He always tells me I’m a good player,” he said. “It’s all mutual respect out there.”

Asked if Mitchell is hardest hitter he’s ever faced, Green responded with an immediate “no.”

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“Ryan Clark killed me my rookie year,” he said. “I still scratch my head over that one. I didn’t get hurt on that one. That’s the one when I stepped out of bounds on the sideline and he came and smacked me.”

An already-tense rivalry seems to grow nastier with each passing game ever since the Steelers took exception to what they thought was Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s celebration following a tackle that left Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell with a season-ending knee injury in Week 8 of 2015.

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The two teams drew a combined 20 flags for 185 yards in that game. In the rematch six weeks later at PBS, words and shoves were exchanged at midfield during pregame warmups, and in the rubber match in the AFC wildcard game four weeks later, the Bengals and Steelers combined to draw 18 penalties for 221 yards.

Their most recent meeting in Week 15 last year resulted in a combined 15 flags for 190 yards.

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While Green said Mitchell doesn’t engage in trash talking, he confirmed many of his Steelers teammates do, along with defenders from a number of other teams across the league.

Green prides himself on not taking the bait.

“I’m not going to say nothing to them,” he said. “I’m here to play football. I’m not here to get in an arguing match and fight on the field. No need. I need all the energy I can to go out and make plays.”

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