The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of an upset victory on the road in Week 1 against a division rival who happens to be the defending conference champions in the Cincinnati Bengals. While that win helped their standing, it hasn’t prevented them from still being regarded as the underdogs as they prepare for their first hosting gig in Acrisure Stadium this Sunday against the visiting New England Patriots.
Truth be told, Bill Belichick’s squad is coming off of a poor game in which the Miami Dolphins got the better of them, but that has been happening for a while. Indeed, with Sunday’s loss, they have now dropped four in a row to the Dolphins—the first three of which were under the guide of Brian Flores as head coach, a former Belichick protégé.
Flores is now on the Steelers’ coaching staff as a senior defensive assistant, and as another longtime Belichick disciple, offensive play-caller Matt Patricia sees the imprints of his good friend on Pittsburgh’s defense in week one.
“I think B-Flo is doing a great job of blending into that defensive unit”, he told reporters heading into this game, via the Patriots’ website, when he was specifically asked about the topic. “Obviously Teryl Austin does a great job of coordinating that, but I think there’s definitely some influence there, too, which I think is part of every single year as coaches grow and schemes grow”.
Indeed, Patricia was very impressed overall with what he saw from the Steelers’ defense, which, even without T.J. Watt, will prove a daunting dask for his offense. He saw high levels of play from all three levels.
“I think they played extremely fast. I think they played aggressive. They were able to generate really good pass rush up front”, he said. “I thought their coverage guys, they just read the quarterback really well. I think they made some huge plays, were able to kind of start fast, certainly with the interception early in the game and to return that and get a jump into the game itself”.
He also talked about the defense having “good vision on the quarterback” and reading the receivers’ routes well, adding that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow didn’t have much time to throw, which of course is all plain as day on tape.
“There’s some scheme things, certainly, where they brought some edge pressure from some secondary players and different linebacker pressures that they can bring from some of their defensive units that they have that are certainly things that we’ve seen before or some package that maybe we recognized from previous games”, he added, hinting at a sense of Flores’ influence.
While never nominally the defensive coordinator in New England, Flores wore many hats with the Patriots, mostly on that side of the ball, and while in Miami for the past three seasons, he served as defensive play-caller. His reputation is well-earned, and no doubt he has had some influence on this defense, though parsing out exactly what and when is more difficult to say—for those who don’t know him very well.