The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot on their plate this offseason, which includes replacing some of the most important people in the organization over the past two decades, at quarterback and at general manager. Yet there has been as much or more discussion about one hire in particular, that of an assistant coach.
It was a couple weeks back now that the team announced the hiring of former Miami Dolphins head coach and longtime New England Patriots assistant Brian Flores, who will wear the title of Senior Defensive Assistant/Linebackers for what may well be just his one season here. The team is excited about the move—both on the field and off, but not for the reason you might think, reading that line.
“The thing I really liked about Brian, the first thing I talked to him [about] when he came into our building, he started off in the personnel world”, general manager Kevin Colbert told Pro Football Talk earlier today while doing the media rounds at the Combine. “I do believe there’s some fresh perspective not only he can bring to us as a coach, but also from the personnel. He’s had success. We think he’ll be a huge addition to our organization”.
Flores played linebacker for Boston College, but an injury prevented him from pursuing an NFL career. Just a couple years out of his college career, he was hired by the Patriots to work as a scouting assistant in 2004, and was promoted to pro scout in 2006. It wouldn’t be until 2008 that he actually joined the team’s coaching staff, first as a special teams assistant before wearing a number of different hats over the course of the next decade-plus.
Flores was actually the Patriots’ linebackers coach, and has never formally held a coordinator title (Bill Belichick has been recognized as the team’s defensive coordinator), when the Dolphins hired him to be their head coach in 2019, a job he held for the past three seasons.
He was fired this offseason with two years remaining on his contract, which has obviously been the reason, along with his subsequent lawsuit, that his name has been so widely discussed in recent months. As he has been with a number of young coaches, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been something of a mentor to Flores, who earlier in the offseason sought him out for advice.
“Brian has talked about [how] he reached out to Coach Tomlin for some guidance; Coach offered him the position—‘Hey, what would you think about coming?’”, Colbert recalled. “Coach came to me, he said, ‘I think I’m going to hire Brian Flores’, and I said, ‘Great’. He’s a young, successful NFL head coach, Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator”.
With Keith Butler retiring, and former Senior Defensive Assistant/Secondary Teryl Austin promoted to the title of defensive coordinator, adding Flores to that room will change the complexion of the defense, even if Tomlin retains commanding control of the unit.
But as Colbert talked about, they expect Flores to contribute in a number of ways, and as a former scout himself, his insights will also be valued from a personnel standpoint, which is an interesting wrinkle to this move.