Numerous draft "experts" panned the Raiders for selecting safety Mike Mitchell in the second round of April's NFL draft. Seven months later, Mitchell still feels the sting.
What makes it worse, Mitchell said, is that he hasn't had a chance to do much to dispel the notion that the Raiders reached by taking Mitchell so high.
"That's the thing that irks me the most about how this year has gone for me," Mitchell said. "There were some things that were said that I still don't like, and I'm still looking forward to proving myself right. Not necessarily proving them wrong, but just proving myself right, (things) that I still need to do. And I'm not going to stop until I do that."
Mitchell's NFL career got off to a rocky start when he suffered a hamstring injury during his initial days of practice. It got worse when he aggravated the injury during training camp, because it cost him significant practice time and a shot at earning a starting spot.
In the interim, he has contributed on special teams and been an extra defensive back in certain defensive packages.
Second-year player Tyvon Branch is the starting strong safety, fourth-year player Michael Huff the starting free safety.
Mitchell said he has learned a great deal from Branch, Huff and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, though he admitted it's difficult biding his time until he can get more playing time.
"I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty impatient," Mitchell said. "I want
Raiders coach Tom Cable said he doesn't see any reason why Mitchell can't challenge for a starting job next season and follow the path blazed by Branch.
"Now that he's healthy, he'll get more opportunity to do that, and it certainly bodes well as he gets ready for next year and the offseason," Cable said. "He'll know how to train, how to take care of himself a little bit better, all those kind of things. Yeah, you would expect a leap."
Miller suffered his injury during training camp and hasn't healed well enough to practice in more than three months. Cable said Miller won't play Sunday at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gary Russell replaced Jonathan Holland as the kick returner against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 26 and will handle that job against the Steelers, as well, Cable said. Russell returned one kick for 15 yards.
"You always try to do what gives you a good chance to succeed," Cable said. "So, if you want to improve an area, you make a move like we did, and certainly Trevor was able to go in and back it up."
Howard and Sam Williams split time at the strongside linebacker spot and will do so again Sunday.