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Steelers' Assistant Head Coach John Mitchell: A Connoisseur of the Game

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 26:  Assistant head coach John Mitchell of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks on the field during the game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field on October 26, 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Mimi McCannCorrespondent IMay 10, 2009

Teams want to win now.  

Hours of analysis are devoted to which rookie taken in the first round is going to be that last piece of the puzzle for their franchise.  

When Coach John Mitchell pronounced that top Steeler pick Ziggy Hood was "light years" from being ready to play it sounded almost crazy.  

The Steelers' longest tenured coach understands that progress is the result of dedication and hard work.

Mitchell has witnessed first hand the pace at which change can happen.

We are barely more than three years from the year that Tony Dungy won the Super Bowl as the first African-American Head Coach in the NFL.

John Mitchell was a pioneer in that arena, breaking the long-standing color barrier as a defensive end for Coach Bear Bryant at Alabama in 1971.  Mitchell went on to distinguish himself both as a player and later as a coach, all the while breaking more color barriers and earning more distinction on his journey.

Accomplishments such as those would be the pinnacle in the careers of many people in sports.

John Mitchell is not just anybody.

He joined the Steelers under Bill Cowher when he succeeded Steve Furness as defensive line coach in 1994.  

The Steelers have lead the league four times in rush defense during his tenure.  

He is said to love vintage jazz and fine wine, and here we begin to see why an appreciation of the artistry in a process and preparation would explain why he is in no hurry to rush Ziggy Hood's development.  He recently stated that he is also in no rush to bid farewell to his existing line.

Mitchell cultivated the talents of Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel.  He regards his players as responsible men and begins by coaching them on the minute details for that is the place where their habits are formed.  The schemes are not simple - they take time to perfect.

Mitchell has been the Steelers' Assistant Head Coach since Mike Tomlin was hired as the Steeler's head coach in 2007.  Tomlin selected him to fill the position left vacant by the departure of Russ Grimm to the Cardinals.

His players call him Coach Mitch., and he is a cultured, yet down to earth man who sees parallels between football in chess and history.

Mitchell invests the time in his players to teach them thoroughly and it shows.

We're winning now.  Coach Mitchell is looking forward to having time with our first round pick to make sure that it continues for years to come.   

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