Transcript: John Mitchell on L.T. Walton

Posted May 2, 2015

Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell discusses Sixth Round Draft Pick, defensive end L.T. Walton.

John Mitchell RE L.T. Walton

John Mitchell: We just took L.T. in the sixth round. He’s a guy that when I watched, I’ll tell you, he’s a guy that stays on his feet and that’s the most important thing for a defensive lineman. He has a good motor and runs to the ball. The things that he is going to have to learn how to do a little bit better is use his hands, get off blocks, and be a little more physical at the point of a tackle. When you can get a guy 6-4, 319 – that can run and stay on his feet that’s a big plus. Here we have had a lot of success with taking special defensive linemen in the later rounds. He goes by L.T and I told him if he can play like L.T, then he and I will both be happy. This guy has the measurements that you look for and that you want. For us and we have been very fortunate here to some ends that are 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 that can run. Here’s a young guy. He has the measurements and it’s my job to get him to be the best football player he can be. Talking to the people at his school, he’s a laid back kid, hard worker, and he’ll do anything that we will ask him. I’m excited about having him here and having the opportunity to try to get him better and be a type of player that we like for the Pittsburgh Steelers.


Re: Could he be the nose tackle:
No. Usually you take a guy like that here at that round, which you hope he can play more than one position, give him a chance to try and get on the field. At 6-4 yes, he will be an end? Right now in our rookie camp, we will give him opportunities to try and play where he feels he can do what we want to make a better football team.

Re: Where he did play and where he will play:

Yea he played inside. Right now, what they do, especially with defensive linemen, a guy 6-4, 6-5, when they go to their sub package, they move them inside because they have height. It’s a lot easier to put a guy or a guard then rush over the tackle. You have a guy that is 6-4; you want to move him inside.

Re: Four-man rush:

They had a 4-man rush at times. Yes definitely. He played what we called a two-technique.

Re: Defensive line right now:

I’m really happy where we are. A lot of times guys say that you need sacks and all of that but I’m not a big sack guy for this reason. If you don’t stop the run in the National Football League, you aren’t going to have the chance to get sacks. Good football teams are physical and play well at the point and stop the run. That’s what I tell my guys. When we stop the run we’ve got enough in our arsenal, to put pressure on the quarterback. You look, in the National Football League, look at teams that have a lot of sacks and a lot of those teams didn’t make the playoffs because they couldn’t stop the run.

Re: Defensive line this season:

Cam Heyward is coming along, Steve McLendon is going to be a better football player and I like where Dan McCullers is right now. I asked for Clifton Geathers and others to come back so I’m really happy right now. I have some guys with athletic ability, I have some guys that can do the things we are going to require them to do and they should be better at.

Re: Stephon Tuitt:

I have a player in the NFL, and he makes his jump from his first year to his third year, and you hope his second year that he is a lot better football player. If you notice here, the last 10 or 12 years, we have had players that have made that jump from the time they started as a first-year guy, a rookie, or a sophomore guy that made that jump to become a better football player. I think his maturity and being around good football players, understanding what we are asking him to do, I think he is going to be a better football player because he’s here right now. I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with him again.

Re: More on Stephon Tuitt:

You have to realize, he misses a lot of things. A lot of times people don’t realize last year that guy was a senior in college. You expect the mistakes he made, those are mistakes you make senior year in college. He is playing in the NFL against guys who have been in the league 5, 10 and 15 years, and he did a good job. It took him a little while longer to pick up our scheme, and understand what we are going to do, but you have to realize, he was a young man who just turned 20 years old and he would have been a senior last year at Notre Dame.

Re: Three guys being in your line that are now gone and how the fans reaction can be spoiled:

I was spoiled. You are talking about fans and other people. I was spoiled. How often do you get a Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, and Aaron Smith who play for you for 10 or more years? I was spoiled. Heck with the fans and other people. It made my job very easy. I was spoiled. That doesn’t happen. You guys write about sports. How many teams can you write about that had three guys that played that well for that long of a period of time year in and year out. It made my job easy. I’m looking for that. I think we are going to have that here again. We are still a little young. Cam Heyward is going to be a heck of a football player. I think Tuitt’s best football is ahead of him. I think Steven McLendon is a guy that stayed in here, worked hard day in and day out. We cut him about four times. He had a never say never attitude. He wasn’t going to die. He felt like he could play on this level, and I’m happy for the guy. I think the same thing with Dan McCullers. He was the guy right from Tennessee; he didn’t know what it would take to play on this level. He's been around good football players. He watched how Cam Heyward worked. It got contagious. He’s in great shape right now, he understands what we are going to do and he’s here. I’m excited about this football team. I’m excited about the defensive line.

It looks like McCullers did slim down a little bit. Is that by your direction?

Credit goes to Coach Giemont. Gie gets them in shape. I coach them. Those are two different departments. That is his job. My job is to get him on the field and make him work. But I’ve got to give it to him. He’s done a great job with that young man. Not only that young man, but a lot of players on the team. What you have to understand is that guys come here from college and they use their players knowing that they may have them for three years so whatever he can do, they let him do it. So when they get to this next level, there are a lot of things that they never heard of. Technique, nutrition, to lift weights and stay in shape, this is a long-term deal and they have to adjust to that. I think that happened to Dan and it’s going to happen to a lot of the guys that were drafted today. So when you have him for three years if you’re a coach in college, whatever that guy can do, if he’s a good run player, you have him play run and forget about pass. If he’s a good pass rusher, than you have him rush the pass and forget about the run because guys are not staying in college for four years. And you look in the draft and how many juniors have come out? So in college now, guys, I won’t say are getting away with anything, but what they do best to make themselves productive to get drafted that’s what the coach lets them do, and he tries to build his team around that.

With two fronts, your nickel and your base play like 50% of the time, does that factor into your draft day thinking of an athlete?

Definitely. I mean, everybody’s players spread. You’ve got four and five receivers so you’ve got to have guys that can rush the pass and stay on the field. You need guys that can run and that’s a big factor. Right now, you take a guy again like Dan McCullers, he’s dropped some weight and he’s a guy down there when it’s go time, big nickel, he’ll be one of the guys we have in there. But you’ve got to have guys that can rush the pass and what you have with your bigger guys, a lot of those guys are first and second-down players and that’s all that we’re going to get out of them. That’s all that they have done in college. So, when they come here, it’s new, but with what we have right now, with our draft choices, the people that we have coming back, that should not be a factor.

And with this new guy, is he showing you any pass rush in college? 

Yes, he’s not bad. But it’s a little different, not taking anything away from him when you play for Central Michigan, the competition you’re playing, when you’re playing Baltimore or Cleveland and New England, it will be a little different. Not taking anything away from him, but the competition is a little different. So when they come in here, what I’m looking for in a draft choice, at this particular stage, I want a guy that has some of the tools that he can show us what he can add to help us win. We’re not asking this guy to come in and be a starter, but if he didn’t have the measurement, we would not have drafted him today.

You said that he was kind of laid back. Is he laid back like ‘Big Dan’?

No, he’s not laid back like Big Dan. He’s a mild mannered, young man that lets things roll off of his back and that is what you’ve got to be. Again, when you go back to college, I coached college football for sixteen years and it has changed since I have been there. But when you recruit kids out of high school, they’ve been pushed and the lower that you get them in college, the mirror that you put on is not the same as in the NFL. A lot of the times they say that it’s okay, it’s okay that you don’t lose weight, it’s okay because we know that you’re not going to be here for three years, but it’s not okay. And I tell them that. I think that’s one of the things that happened to Dan. Everybody would tell him, it’s okay that you’re a big guy. I don’t care how big you are, if you’re not in shape and you can’t do it, it’s not okay. It’s not okay with me. I’m not going to pass him along because that guy can help us win football games and he knows how to take the win and be a good football player on this level.

Re: Your team drafted three guys in the first three rounds in the SEC:

You know how I feel about the SEC. The SEC is great. I love SEC football players, but Alabama can’t supply everybody. Nick Saban has done a good job there. I’m a big fan and anytime a guy gets drafted – we bring in a couple of guys and it’s a thrill to see that we’re taking guys from a conference where you’ve got to be hard-nosed. You’ve got to play the run, you’ve got to play the pass and play good football teams every week. So a lot of times when those guys come into the NFL, they know what it takes. You’re going to play a tough team every week and you have to be prepared. If you have a big win or a big loss, you can’t linger and cry because next week another big team is going to be there and you’re going to get beat because you’re not ready to play.

With that said, are you more inclined to go with the guy from Central Michigan in a later round?

No, not in that sense. We got him where we thought that he would fall. There are a lot of guys from a lot of small schools that play with him. But when you play against top-notch competition week in and week out, it makes you a better football player.