Steelers News

John Mitchell Named 2023 PFWA ‘Dr Z.’ Award Winner

A great honor for a former longtime Pittsburgh Steelers coach Monday. John Mitchell has been selected as the 2023 Pro Football Writers of America Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award, the PFWA announced Monday.

The award is a lifetime achievement award handed out to an NFL assistant coach.

Few did it longer or better than John Mitchell, who served as Pittsburgh’s defensive line coach from 1994 t0 2017. He molded many great players throughout his time in the NFL including Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and many more.

Mitchell helped break the color barrier at Alabama and became the first African American captain in Crimson Tide history. After a brief time playing in the NFL, he immediately got into coaching, returning to his alma mater in 1973. He coached in the south in college until 1991 when he was hired by the Cleveland Browns before Pittsburgh hired him in 1994.

Mitchell is one of the most storied names in coaching history and could be considered one of the best defensive line coaches ever. His tough-love nature getting the most out of players, he always preached hustle and effort running to the football.

Karl Dunbar replaced Mitchell as Steelers’ defensive line coach for the 2018 season and Mitchell moved into more of a liaison role, helping players bridge their life after retiring. Mitchell himself officially retired earlier this year.

Over his football career, Mitchell won two Super Bowls with the Steelers, was named to the Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Last year, Alabama created a plaque of him and Wilbur Jackson as the first two black players in the school’s football history.

Other recipients of this year’s award include New York Giants DC Don “Wink” Martindale” and late San Francisco 49ers offensive line coach Bobb McKittrick. Past Steelers’ coaches to win the award include Dick LeBeau and Bud Carson. The award has been handed out since 2014.

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