Mike Tomlin noted Brian Flores’ impact on being able to prepare to Miami is a bit overblown. But Flores’ impact on the Steelers’ defense this season can’t be stated enough. Though Pittsburgh’s defense has had its issues, ones you’d expect after losing T.J. Watt, it’s a group that’s battled and Buffalo game aside, kept games close and the score down.
Though Flores primarily works with the off-ball linebackers, Cam Heyward said he regularly speaks to Flores and detailed his impact on the entire defensive room.
“I just ask Flo just about what he sees,” Heyward said via the team website. “He’s [been] a DC other places. He’s been a head coach. He’s just a brilliant mind when it comes to stunts, fronts. He sees things differently. Just asking him what he sees, how we can get better. Those are things I’m doing every week.”
It’s been a challenging year for Pittsburgh’s defense trying to compensate without Watt, lost in Week One, while also battling secondary injuries. While impossible to quantify Flores’ direct impact, he has a hand in the Steelers’ defensive gameplan. Here’s a quick and broad breakdown of the different wrinkles Pittsburgh’s added every week since losing Watt.
Week 2 – Blitz Wrinkles/Coffeehouse stunt that led to INT & 3-3-5 defense
Week 3 – 3 ILB Packages (Base & Nickel)
Week 4- 3-4 Specialty Package (1 OLB, 3 ILB)
Week 5 – Amoeba Defense (1-4-6) + Leal Off-Ball Blitz
Week 6 – Stemming Defensive Front
Flores probably shouldn’t get credit for all of that and most of that isn’t brand new, done before by other people, but every week, the Steelers seem to add a defensive wrinkle to keep offenses on their toes. As someone who charts the Steelers’ defense, it’s become much more of a chore this year keeping track of all the different variations and packages.
He and new DC Teryl Austin are two smart coaches attempting to elevate the talent they’re working with. Results have been mixed but Pittsburgh’s defense has held the opposition at or under 24 points in five of six games this year, the blowout loss to Buffalo being the only exception.
The good news is Pittsburgh’s getting healthier. Minkah Fitzpatrick and a host of others could return for Sunday night’s game against Miami while T.J. Watt could come back in Week 10 which would simplify the Steelers scheme and the reduce the need to be overly creative. We’ll see what Flores has cooked up to face his former team this weekend.