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Coaches

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John Mitchell
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line
College:
Alabama
Experience:
22

Biography

John Mitchell
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line

John Mitchell is in his 22nd season as the Steelers’ defensive line coach, ranking him as the longest-tenured current member of the Steelers’ coaching staff. He remained with the team following Mike Tomlin’s hiring in January of 2007, and was promoted to assistant head coach.

Mitchell joined the Steelers’ coaching staff January 31, 1994, and is in his 43rd season of coaching, including 15 years at the college level and two in the United States Football League. This is his 25th season as an NFL coach.

John Mitchell
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line

John Mitchell is in his 22nd season as the Steelers’ defensive line coach, ranking him as the longest-tenured current member of the Steelers’ coaching staff. He remained with the team following Mike Tomlin’s hiring in January of 2007, and was promoted to assistant head coach.

Mitchell joined the Steelers’ coaching staff January 31, 1994, and is in his 43rd season of coaching, including 15 years at the college level and two in the United States Football League. This is his 25th season as an NFL coach.

Under his guidance, Pittsburgh’s defensive front helped the Steelers lead the NFL in rush defense five times and finish in the top three on 13 separate occasions. The team only allowed one 100-yard rusher for a stretch of 50 straight regular-season games from 2007-10, and in 2010, the defense allowed just 62.8 rushing yards per game. That figure is a team record and is the third-fewest average in a single season out of any NFL team since the 1970 NFL merger.

Defensive end Cameron Heyward had his finest season of his young career in 2014. He started all 16 games for the first time in his career, and he set a career-high with 7.5 sacks, tying for the team lead. He became the first defensive lineman since 2004 (Aaron Smith) to lead or tie for the team lead in sacks in a single season. He also led the team with 21 quarterback pressures.

The Steelers’ defensive line guided the group to tops in the NFL in total defense and second in rush defense, giving up 90.6 rushing yards per game in 2012. Defensive end Brett Keisel led the team with a career-high 40 quarterback pressures. He also led the line with 58 tackles and had the second-most sacks (4.5) in a single season in his career (5.5, 2006).

In 2011, the Steelers defense continued to dominate opposing offenses, only giving up 4.5 yards per play, 271.8 yards per game and 14.2 points per game, ranking first in the NFL in all three categories. Pittsburgh put on a defensive showcase in 2010 by leading the NFL in at least eight categories, including total sacks (48) and fewest points allowed (232). They became the first team in NFL history to hold their opponents to 75 or fewer rushing yards in each of their first eight games.

Strong play by Mitchell’s line was a huge reason why the Steelers finished the 2008 regular season second overall in the NFL against the run. In 2009, Pittsburgh’s defense ranked fifth in the NFL while leading the AFC and finishing one shy of the NFL lead with 47 sacks. Mitchell was instrumental in the development of five-time Pro Bowler Casey Hampton, who became the first Steelers defensive lineman to be named Steelers’ MVP or Co-MVP since Hall of Famer Joe Greene in 1970.

A former All-America defensive end for Alabama, Mitchell was the first African-American to play for the University of Alabama. Mitchell’s early years in coaching were spent studying under two of college football’s greatest coaches, as he was the defensive line coach under Paul ‘‘Bear’’ Bryant at Alabama (1973-76) and the defensive line coach at Arkansas (1977-82) under Lou Holtz.

In 1983, Mitchell made his first move to the professional level. From 1983-85 he served as the defensive line coach for the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions. He returned to the college ranks in 1986 as the defensive ends coach at Temple University. Mitchell was then hired by Louisiana State University in 1987. He spent four years at LSU, coaching linebackers (1987-90). In 1990, Mitchell also served as LSU’s defensive coordinator, becoming the first African-American defensive coordinator in SEC history.

Mitchell 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 All-American defensive end at Eastern Arizona Junior College from 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, and in 2009 he was elected into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

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

1973-1976
University of Alabama
Defensive Line

1977-1982
University of Arkansas
Defensive Line

1983-1985
Birmingham Stallions (USFL)
Defensive Line

1986
Temple University
Defensive Ends

1987-1989
Louisiana State University
Linebackers

1990
Louisiana State University
Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

1991-1993
Cleveland Browns
Defensive Line

1994-2006
Pittsburgh Steelers
Defensive Line

2007-2015
Pittsburgh Steelers
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line

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