Few coaches in the league have been around football as long as John Mitchell. And maybe no one knows the history as well as him. When class is in session, and Coach Mitchell turns into Professor Mitchell, you can only hope players have done their homework.
Mitchell told the media recently he was going to spring a “pop quiz” on the defensive line, something Cam Heyward was asked about yesterday.
“He’s got it coming up soon. I think after our night practice,” Heyward said via the team site, confirming it hadn’t happened yet but by now, has certainly taken place.
Heyward was asked if the tests were Harvard level difficulty.
“It’s not open book, I’ll tell you that. He’s just going to test to see where guys are at and if they’re adjusting to the playbook. He’s pretty smart about testing you. He’ll test you not only on the field but in the classroom.”
Mitchell has been coaching football since 1973 at Alabama, his alma mater. He was the first black player to ever play football for the school, playing under the famous Bear Bryant for his entire college career. Mitchell has always coached either the defensive ends or linebacker, doing the former every year since 1991 and the past 23 in Pittsburgh. By far, he’s the longest tenured coach on the Steelers and was here for six seasons before Kevin Colbert arrived as general manager.
Few are more candid and brutally honest in their evaluations than him, casually – but fairly – calling out Daniel McCullers during an offseason interview. Those words are followed by action, bumping McCullers to third string nose tackle, and putting him on the outside looking in for the 53 man roster.
In the classroom, Heyward stressed passing Mitchell’s tests comes down to work ethic and burning the midnight oil to learn the playbook. The secret is that there is no secret.
“You just got learn it. There’s no way around it. I’ll give you some tips but I can’t help you learn it if you don’t want to learn it yourself.”