PITTSBURGH (AP) — Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach John Mitchell retired on Wednesday after nearly three decades with the club.
The 71-year-old Mitchell won two Super Bowl rings in 29 seasons with the Steelers after first joining Bill Cowher's staff in 1994 as a defensive line coach. Mike Tomlin retained Mitchell when he replaced Cowher in 2007 then promoted Mitchell to assistant head coach in 2017.
Mitchell, the longest-tenured coach on Pittsburgh's staff by a wide margin, played an integral role in putting together defensive fronts that helped the Steelers win four AFC championships and a pair of Super Bowl titles in 2005 and 2008.
“He has coached some of the best players in this franchise’s illustrious history, and each one of them, to a man, would tell you their success was a direct result of not only Mitch’s coaching acumen, but also his mentorship, leadership and character," Tomlin said in a statement.
Mitchell, a native of Mobile, Alabama, made history when he became the first Black player to play in a game at the University of Alabama in 1971.
He later became the first Black coach at the school shortly after graduating, starting a 50-year career on the sideline that included a stop at LSU, where he became the first Black defensive coordinator in Southeastern Conference history in 1990.
Mitchell's NFL career began in 1991 when he joined Bill Belichick's staff in Cleveland. Mitchell moved on to the Steelers in 1994, where his pupils on the defensive line included five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton and defensive tackle/end Cam Heyward.
“When you consider (Mitchell's) path, as both a player and coach, Mitch created opportunities in football for young Black men that quite honestly didn’t previously exist," Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement. "He has left an imprint on this franchise, and the sport and culture of football, that will continue well beyond his retirement.”
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