It’s been said and explained before by Mike Tomlin and others, but Tomlin offered the most in-depth timeline of hiring Brian Flores. In an excellent interview on The Pivot Podcast hosted by Channing Crowder, Ryan Clark, and Fred Taylor, Tomlin laid out how the conversation went from support to a job. But first, Tomlin said what the team is getting in Flores and what made him an easy hire.
“I had an opportunity to get a quality dude that is a more than capable coach at a discount,” Tomlin told the show. “Like what are we talking about?”
Flores was officially hired on February 19th carrying the official title of Defensive Assistant/Linebackers Coach, though Tomlin made it clear in the interview he didn’t care much about titles.
By now, you know the offseason Flores has hired. Fired as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach that turned into a lawsuit against the Dolphins, multiple other teams, the NFL, including accusing Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross offering to pay Flores for losing. At the time, Tomlin reached out to Flores for support, not offering a job.
“When the process started happening for him, he filed a lawsuit. I shot him a text. ‘You’re not alone. Holler at me if I could be of some service to you.'”
Tomlin admitted he didn’t have much of a relationship with Flores, only knowing him casually once Flores was hired as Miami’s coach in 2019. But their conversations grew during the summer as Tomlin offered as much support as he could both personally and through Maryland head coach Mike Locksley’s minority coach program, where Tomlin sits as one of its Board of Directors.
With his legal battles, Flores became ostracized by the league. Tomlin initially thought Flores would land a head-coaching job somewhere but when he lost out those jobs, Tomlin shifted the conversation from support to landing in Pittsburgh.
“For a period of time, I just refused to acknowledge that he wasn’t going to get another opportunity.”
But Tomlin didn’t want to run away from Flores. Realizing Flores wasn’t going to get a high-level job elsewhere, he had another conversation with him, one that turned to coaching. Tomlin said he walked down the hall to owner Art Rooney II’s office and got the ok to make the hire. A simple, quick meeting.
“I walk in Art Rooney’s office. I say, ‘I’ve been talking to Brian Flores, kind of on a lot of things, just staying close to him…this dude wants to coach football and I want to hire him. And he was like, ‘Great.’ Right off bat. ‘Great.’ That’s the extent of the conversation.”
Flores has already made an impact with his serious, military-like demeanor. The Steelers’ inside linebackers need all the coaching and discipline they can get after a difficult 2021 season, especially Devin Bush, who struggled mightily coming off a torn ACL. The Steelers’ front seven will have to play better this season, and while that may not start with the inside linebackers, they’re certainly going to play a key role. Bush is trying to salvage his career while Pittsburgh is trying to bounce back from their worst run defense output in team history.
Brian Flores likely won’t be long for Pittsburgh. That’s a good thing. It means a job he deserves to get, one that reflects his resume. But the Steelers will always be known as his landing spot during a tough metaphorical season.
It’s a long, 90-minute conversation but it’s well worth your time. For my money, the best sit-down interview Mike Tomlin has ever publicly been apart of.