Like their roster, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff saw plenty of turnover this offseason. None more notable than the team losing Brian Flores, in Pittsburgh only for a year, while the team let go Jerry Olsavsky and brought in Aaron Curry to be the team’s inside linebacker coach.
Speaking to Steelers.com’s Max Starks at the NFL Owner’s meetings in Arizona, Tomlin explained the decision to hire Curry and why his background was specifically what the team was looking for.
“I don’t necessarily know that I anticipated [Flores] being here a long time,” Tomlin told Starks via the team website. “Any day that we had a guy of his capabilities on staff in the capacity that he was a good day for us. And so we were excited about having him for a year. We weren’t really surprised when he moved on.
“And I think just the trajectory of the decision making when we replaced him with Aaron Curry is it’d be very difficult to replace Flores in the same profile of person. And so I just simply pivoted and changed the profile. That way, players are not comparing Coach Curry to Coach Flores. It’s different in a lot of ways. Aaron is a young guy that brings that young guy energy with a playing career and things of that nature, the physical coach on field and things of that nature.”
After one year as the team’s Linebackers Coach and Senior Defensive Assistant, Flores had plenty of league-wide interest in the offseason and accepted the job to become the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator. Hiring Flores in February of 2022 was never a long-term plan; heck, it was hardly plan, only occurring under unusual circumstances once it became clear no other team was going to hire him. So replacing Flores within a year isn’t a surprise.
As Tomlin noted though, Curry has a different resume than Flores. Just 36 years old, Curry is only a decade removed from playing in the NFL, a former first round pick and “safest” player of the 2o09 NFL Draft who didn’t pan out the way he or the Seattle Seahawks hoped. But he’s still new to coaching in the NFL, starting in 2019, and being hired away from the Seahawks earlier this offseason. He’s likely less of the drill sergeant Flores was known to be and a couple years younger, though Flores wasn’t old at just 42 years old, and will be relatable to the room he’ll run.
There’s value in learning from a former NFL player, especially one who has a story that can match any player’s circumstances. The high draft pick, the player who struggled under the spotlight, the journeyman who tried to make it with a couple teams around the league.
Tomlin compared the move to the inverse he made ten years ago, replacing the young Scottie Montgomery with veteran coach Richard Mann. Mann and Tomlin worked together in Tampa Bay and Tomlin brought him over in 2013, coaching until 2017. Tomlin replaced him with a coach cut from a similar cloth, hiring the late Darryl Drake, but changed profile’s when Tomlin hired Ike Hilliard and then matching that with Frisman Jackson. Tomlin chose to “match profiles” with his most recent tight end coach hire too, bringing in long-term coach Alfredo Roberts to replace James Daniel, though Roberts and Daniel’s personalities are a bit different.
“Sometimes when you lose a quality coach who’s outstanding with a certain profile, sometimes it’s best just to change the profile. So that the other person can be themselves.”
Curry is one of two coaching additions this offseason, joining defensive quality control coach Jason Brooks, formerly the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive line coach. We’ll see if the team makes any more moves. Adding an assistant wide receivers coach to officially replace Blaine Stewart’s responsibilities (Brooks may replace some of that from a special teams and scout team defense standpoint) would be a wise move.