There was a time, which now seems increasingly long ago, that the Pittsburgh Steelers had the most stable coaching staff in the entire NFL. They had many, many long-tenured individuals on their staff, including those with respected backgrounds.
At one point, head coach Mike Tomlin employed three assistant coaches and coordinators, simultaneously, who had previously had head coaching experience. In 2014, while Dick LeBeau was still the defensive coordinator, Todd Haley was the offensive coordinator, and Mike Munchak was brought in to coach the offensive line—which he had been best known for after his playing days.
Munchak was brought in that season, and he had a clear impact on that entire unit; indeed, a lasting one, to the point that Steelers fans really wanted to see him brought back this offseason now that he is seemingly available again, though Pittsburgh hired another veteran line coach.
But the Steelers recently made a hire that veteran defensive lineman Cameron Heyward believes can have a similar impact on another group—the linebackers. The team announced days ago the hiring of former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who will wear the title Senior Defensive Assistant/Linebackers Coach.
“It’s very similar to when we signed coach Munchak”, Heyward told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the Flores hire. “You heard of his leadership and what he had done as head coach, but you knew the type of coach he was through his players. Even when Flores was in New England, he got the most out of his defenses. When you start looking at the track record, when you bring in different coaches, you start to get pretty excited”.
Before earning the Dolphins job, Flores spent more than a decade working under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots. Originally brought on as a special teams assistant in 2008, he became the special teams coach and an offensive assistant in 2010, followed by defensive assistant a year later.
In 2012, Belichick moves him to safeties coach, and then in 2016, to linebackers coach, the job he retained until he earned himself the promotion to head coach with the division-rival Dolphins.
Flores himself was a linebacker for Boston College for four years; however, an injury prevented him from even pursuing an NFL career. Just a couple years out of football, he actually first came into Belichick’s purview as a scouting assistant with the team in 2004, then a pro scout in 2006.
Like Tomlin, Flores is a man who has worn many hats over the course of his football journey and has seen both sides of the ball. That aids him in his global perspective of the game, but at heart, one suspects that he has always been a linebackers coach.
And he comes into the room with his work cut out for him, depending on just exactly what his responsibilities will be. While he had the reigning Defensive Player of the Year on the edge, the inside linebacker position is a mess. Of course, he figures to have his hand in many different places, but there’s a reason there was one position specified in his title.