View Full Version : Mitchell named assistant HC

07-23-2007, 09:12 AM
Steelers name Mitchell new assistant head coach
Monday, July 23, 2007

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Coach Mike Tomlin today announced he has promoted defensive line coach John Mitchell to assistant head coach of the Steelers.

Mitchell enters his 14th season as defensive line coach, a job he will continue in his new capacity. He succeeds former offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who carried the title of assistant head coach the past two seasons.

This is Mitchell's 34th season in coaching -- 17 in the NFL, 15 in college and two in the old United States Football League. He is a former All-America defensive end at Alabama and the first black player for Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide. He began his coaching career under the legendary Bryant shortly after he graduated from college.


tony hipchest
07-23-2007, 09:18 AM
this is out of the blue. any thoughts? all i know is hes always done a hell of a job with the players he was responsible for (keisel and hoke as backups for example). tomlin must like what he sees in this cowher era holdover.

07-23-2007, 09:21 AM
I like it,he gets the best out of his unit.

07-23-2007, 09:23 AM
this is out of the blue. any thoughts? all i know is hes always done a hell of a job with the players he was responsible for (keisel and hoke as backups for example). tomlin must like what he sees in this cowher era holdover.

The guy's got the experience and he helped bring along Hampton and Smith (and as you stated, Hoke and Keisel). In Cleveland he helped along Perry and Burnett (I believe both were Pro-Bowlers?). From the outside looking in it seems like a smart move. Besides that, I really don't know all that much about the guy in order to form a solid opinion on the move. I guess I'll find out for sure come game time....:hunch:

Atlanta Dan
07-23-2007, 09:29 AM
May indicate he is the heir apparent at coordinator if LeBeau will only be around for a brief transition period, although I would think Tomlin would want a younger guy to follow LeBeau.

Provides some more continuity from the old regime and may help put some vets more in the conmfort zone as change swirls around them.

07-23-2007, 09:33 AM
Provides some more continuity from the old regime and may help put some vets more in the conmfort zone as change swirls around them.

I agree. I think this is a smart move w/ the vets.

tony hipchest
07-23-2007, 09:43 AM
you were correct 83 (perry and burnett- who could possibly be the last browns to be in a pro bowl :chuckle:). this definitely brings continuity and sounds like it was title well earned. i think tomlins doing a lot of little things to put the cowher era vs. steelers era distraction to rest (atleast internally). its the steelers era and he recognized good players and people so hes not gonna try and re-invent the wheel. hes always been surrounded by great veteran coaches, so its good to see he doesnt think hes "arrived", and become the teacher trying to surround himself with lesser pupils.

info on mitchell from the official site:


John Mitchell is in his 14th season as the Steelers defensive line coach, ranking him as the longest-tenured member of the Steelers coaching staff. He remained with the team following Mike Tomlin's hiring in January, 2007.

Mitchell, who joined the Steelers' coaching staff Jan. 31, 1994, is in his 35th season of coaching, including 16 years at the college level and two in the United States Football League. This is his 17th season as an NFL coach.

Mitchell has been instrumental in the development of the Steelers defensive linemen, including three-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton and defensive end Aaron Smith, who earned his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2005. He also helped develop starting defensive end Brett Keisel and nose tackle Chris Hoke, who filled in sensationally for an injured Hampton during the 2004 season.

Under his guidance, Pittsburgh's defensive front helped shut down its opponents' offensive rushing attack all season in 2006 as the team did not allow a single 100-yard rusher all season. The Steelers ranked third in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 88.3 yards per game.

A former All-America defensive end for Alabama, Mitchell was the first African-American to play for the Crimson Tide. Mitchell's early years in coaching were spent studying under two of college football's greatest coaches. He began his coaching career in 1973 as defensive line coach under Paul ''Bear'' Bryant at Alabama (1973-76). He then spent six seasons as defensive line coach at Arkansas (1977-82) on Lou Holtz's staff.

In 1983, Mitchell made his first move to the professional level. From 1983-85 he served as defensive line coach for the USFL's Birmingham Stallions and returned to the college ranks in 1986 as defensive ends coach at Temple.

Mitchell began a four-year stint in 1987 as linebackers coach at Louisiana State (1987-90) under former Steelers' linebacker coach Mike Archer, who was the head coach. In 1990, Mitchell became the first African-American defensive coordinator in Southeastern Conference (SEC) history when he was named LSU's defensive coordinator. He also coached the Tigers' linebackers.

Mitchell, 55, joined the NFL ranks in 1991 with the Cleveland Browns, where he tutored two Pro Bowl defensive tackles, Michael Dean Perry and Rob Burnett. Mitchell accepted his current appointment following three seasons coaching the defensive line for the Browns.

A two-time Junior College All-American defensive end at Eastern Arizona Junior College in 1969-70, Mitchell then transferred to Alabama. A starter at defensive end from 1971-72, Mitchell earned All-America honors in 1972. He earned a bachelor's degree in social work in 1972.

Born Oct. 14, 1951, in Mobile, Ala., Mitchell and his wife Joyce live in Pittsburgh.

Mitchell's Coaching Timeline:

Year Team Position

1973-1976 Alabama Defensive line

1977-1982 Arkansas Defensive line

1983-1985 Birmingham Stallions (USFL) Defensive line

1986 Temple Defensive ends

1987-1989 Louisiana State Linebackers

1990 Louisiana State Defensive coordinator/linebackers

1991-1993 Cleveland Browns Defensive line

1994-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive line

The Duke
07-23-2007, 10:54 AM
Seems like a good choice, he's made marvelous things with our d line, now he's showing he can do even more. Congrats to him

07-23-2007, 01:40 PM
I love the idea. The D Line was pretty good last year, and they didn't complain about what coach got what....

So it is THERE coach that is now a number two coach! Yet there is consistency.

Tomlin continues to impress me.

07-23-2007, 02:01 PM
What is great about all this is all the defensive minds at Coach. The defense should be a lot tougher.

07-24-2007, 01:01 AM
Assistant coach Mitchell's reward is winning; promotion is his just dessert

By Mike Prisuta
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It was done in a manner befitting the Steelers and John Mitchell, which was as appropriate as Mitchell's promotion to assistant head coach/defensive line was well-deserved.

There was no fanfare, no ceremony, and no news conference.

The Steelers simply updated Mitchell's biography in the 2007 media guide and then issued a five-paragraph news release Monday morning.

Mitchell wasn't quoted.

The headlines on the opening of training camp, thus, were reserved for the likes of Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca. Polamalu earned them with his franchise-record contract, and Faneca made them by acknowledging his contractual stalemate will compel him to "think about it this time around" when it comes to playing through injuries.

Mitchell no doubt appreciated being relegated to "in other news" status in the papers and over the airwaves, perhaps almost as much as he did recognition that sincerely "honored and humbled" the 35-year coaching veteran.

They tell you to check your ego at the door when you come to work for the Steelers.

Having played and coached for Paul "Bear" Bryant back in the day at Alabama, Mitchell didn't have to be told twice upon joining the organization in 1994.

"One thing he always said when we were at Alabama, he had no stars on his football team," Mitchell said.

Nor did The Bear have any need for such.

"I tell my players, 'When you win, the pie can be sliced in many pieces, and everybody gets what they want,'" Mitchell said. "People look at those two columns, how many Ws and how many Ls. If you have a lot more Ws, chances are you're going to get the opportunity to do what you want at any level."

The Ws the Steelers have piled up since Mitchell came aboard for Bill Cowher's third season have the defensive line coach's fingerprints all over them.

Mitchell coaches more second-day selections and rookie-free agents than he does first-round picks, but no matter their pedigree his guys play with technique and within the scheme.

Traditionally, his units are among the Steelers' most productive and most reliable.

They personify their coach, who embodies the spirit of the franchise.

For that, the Steelers ought to be thankful.

"He's been here a long time," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Mitchell. "He's been a loyal, tireless worker. I felt like it was the right thing to do, and I was glad to do it.

"He's unselfish. He's a leader. He cares about football."

Mitchell also has been a trailblazer, having become the first African-American captain at Alabama and the first African-American defensive coordinator in the SEC (at LSU under Mike Archer).

Tomlin and Mitchell now comprise, according to the NFL Record & Fact Book, the league's second African-American head coach-assistant head coach tandem (joining Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell of Indianapolis).

Mitchell wasn't taking any credit for that yesterday, either.

"All I wanted to do was make sure my guys, come Sunday, were ready to play," Mitchell said.

That won't change no matter what it says on the resume.


Galax Steeler
07-24-2007, 04:00 AM
I don't know much about him but I believe in tomlin good choice.

07-24-2007, 12:06 PM
Why are the Rooney's so good?

Because they hire and keep those who succeed, and get rid of those who don't.

Simple formula. The difference between them and most others, is that they tend to wait and give coaches the opportunities to come into their own.

07-26-2007, 12:34 AM
Gene Collier: Mitchell's impact flies below radar, but is huge just the same
Thursday, July 26, 2007

By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The National Football League's reliably dazzling stable of running backs staged no fewer than 159 performances last year of 100 or more yards gained in a single television episode, which means that nearly nine times per weekend, someone ripped somebody's rush defense to tatters.

All of those performances -- everything from Tiki Barber's show-closing, career-signature 234-yard three-touchdown cadenza for the New York Giants against Washington Dec. 30 to Reuben Droughns' somehow less than memorable 100 thudding yards for the Browns against Oakland 13 weeks earlier -- had this one thing in common.

None of them came against the Steelers, the only team unvanquished by the adventures of the 100-yard rusher.

The reasons for this distinction (and not that it mattered all that much on a 2006 Steelers team vanquished 997 other ways including via motorcycle) are as familiar in this town as names such as Casey Hampton and James Farrior and Troy Polamalu. Students of football architecture might credit it as much to soon-to-be 70-year-old run stopper Dick LeBeau.

But don't go too deep into any factorial litany without bringing up John Mitchell, whom Mike Tomlin brought up Monday, brought him all the way up to assistant head coach in fact. To be precise, Tomlin didn't put "make Mitchell asst. head coach" on his list of things to do first thing Monday morning just last weekend. He knew he was going to do it back in June, after less than six months in the presence of the quiet defensive line coach with the 35 years of experience.

"Every player coach Mitchell gets improves dramatically," LeBeau was saying just before lunch yesterday. "They might not improve dramatically enough to make the football team all the time, but every single player gets better with coach Mitchell. I've always had great confidence in him."

Among all the seriously impressive aspects of the Tomlin persona so exhaustively documented to this point, none might be as critical to this particular Steelers team as the new head coach's demonstrated education. If you define an educated person as the extent to which that person recognizes the scope and depth of what they don't know, then you understand the benefits of having a 35-year-old head coach who knows he doesn't know what John Mitchell knows, what Dick LeBeau knows. Both started coaching in the autumn after Tomlin's first birthday.

Mitchell, the Steelers' longest-tenured coach, deflected any fuss over his appointment, his role in the accomplishment of one of the most-decorated defenses in the league, his impact on individual players, and just about anything else for which anyone might be compelled to give him credit.

"I have great people," Mitchell said of his linemen during a walk on campus. "Chris Hoke is one of the finest people I've ever met, same with Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith, Travis Kirschke, Casey Hampton. They're people who want to get better. I don't have to do much. I can coach them hard. They don't take anything I say personally because all they want is to be better football players.

"Look, the people I coach have been playing football a long time. They have a framework for the way they do things and I'm fine with that as long as it fits into the defense. If it doesn't, then we have to have a talk with coach LeBeau, but, basically, I'm not a guy who cares much which hand you put down. On Sunday, all anybody will remember is whether you made the tackle."

Mitchell started making many notable tackles all the way back in 1971 as an All-American at Alabama, where he was the first African-American to play for the Crimson Tide. Two years later, he took an assistant-coaching job under a living legend named Bear Bryant. Though the coaching life eventually brought Mitchell to Bill Cowher's staff in 1994, where he withstood a series of Cowher's blustery staff remakes, his abilities went pretty much unappreciated by the wider audience until 2004, when a key injury to Hampton introduced Steeler fans to the amazingly capable Hoke. When Keisel starred in the Steelers' playoff run to its fifth Super Bowl two years ago, the notion that a Mitchell student could be plugged in effectively anywhere on the defensive line became dogma.

Though he never said it publicly, Mitchell fairly bristled at the suggestion that were Tomlin to bring his favored 4-3 defensive alignment to Pittsburgh, the Steelers might not have the personnel to play it.

"We could do it tomorrow," Mitchell said. "They're so interchangeable that most teams who play a 4-3 are doing things the same way the 3-4 teams do things. We could put Chris Hoke onto that defensive line, rotate the linebackers, and I don't know what offenses would do, really. Do you double-team Chris Hoke and let Hampton go. Double-team Hampton? Do you want a running back blocking a 6-5, 300-pound defensive tackle."

Mitchell says Tomlin never once flashed any preconceived preference on defense, and LeBeau says his opinion is that the club's best chance to be successful is to play the 3-4 because it is the defense in which it has devoted the most time. But LeBeau agreed with Mitchell on when the 4-3 could be implemented should Tomlin will it.


When it happens, if it happens, Mitchell will likely coach the heck out of it, and most certainly without ever raising his voice.

"Coach Bryant wasn't a screamer," Mitchell said, with a laugh, "and I noticed he had some success."


07-26-2007, 10:41 AM
i thinks its a great move because the fact that he has been around for 14 years and did awesome stuff with the D line.

07-26-2007, 12:33 PM
Notice the praise for Tomlin...

His strength comes in the fact that he knows his weaknesses.

I think this was a great pick for Assistant coach. It also makes me much less apprehensive about losing a DL during the season.