While he hasn’t been on the job for very long, Brian Flores has made a quick impression as the Steelers’ new defensive assistant and linebacker coach. The former Dolphins head coach has been embraced by his new players, who were further acclimated to their new coach during OTAs.
It’s safe to say that Flores wasn’t fully appreciated in Miami, where he was unceremoniously fired in January despite being the first coach in nearly 20 years to lead the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons. Things couldn’t be any more different in Pittsburgh, as Steelers defenders have gone out of their way to sing Flores’ praises.
“He’s added so much value,” said Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith, via WXPI’s Jenna Harner. “I’m just thankful for Coach [Mike] Tomlin bringing him in and being in the linebacker room. I’ve already learned so much from him. … I can see why he’s been a head coach in this league.”
Along with Highsmith, one can include inside linebacker Devin Bush as a player who has made a quick connection with Flores. This is particularly notable given Bush’s current situation, as the former first-round pick is hoping to bounce back following a disappointing 2021 season. Bush said that, along with the tangible instruction Flores is offering, he is also providing a forum to discuss matters that do not pertain to ball.
“I think he’s a big, big addition to the Steelers,” Bush said. “Having him in the room is outstanding. He’s a guy that is real football-minded. He loves the game. You can ask him any type of question, have any type of discussion with him. Talk about football or life, honestly.”
Hired in February, Flores has been able to take part in most of the Steelers’ offsesaon. Before contributing to the Steelers’ draft process, Flores played a role in helping recruit free agents to Pittsburgh. Myles Jack, a veteran linebacker who signed with Pittsburgh shortly after being waived by Jacksonville, credited Flores as one of the selling points to sign with the Steelers.
“He’s a great coach,”at the time of his signing. “I saw what he did last year in Miami, how he turned that whole thing around. I think it was amazing what he did. After I told Coach Tomlin we were definitely going to make this thing happen, I actually got a chance to talk with Coach Flores, and we both kind of came to the agreement that we both have something to prove. Him feeling his way in his situation and myself feeling like, getting released, I feel like I got a second chance at life. I’m just super excited.
“I feel like we kind of vibed about that connection. I’m very excited to work with him and just see what I can learn and see how we can collaborate to make this thing go.”
Now that he’s had a chance to work with Flores, Jack definitely isn’t disappointed with his decision. Jack said that Flores’ communication style should help him be more of an instinctual player.
“Obviously, he’s a head coach, so his perspective, his approach to things is going to be more clear-cut,” Jack said. “More, ‘This is what it is, this is what it’s not.’ I enjoy that, because I know exactly what I’m doing and I can play fast. It’s been great.”
Flores is part of a re-built defensive staff in Pittsburgh. The Steelers elevated Teryl Austin to defensive coordinator following the retirement of Keith Butler, who had been part of the coaching staff since 2003. With Flores in tow, the Steelers’ coaching staff includes quite possibly the most overqualified assistant in the NFL. Prior to coaching the Dolphins, Flores won three Super Bowls as a defensive assistant in New England. Tomlin, a former defensive assistant coach himself, is looking forward to utilizing each of Flores’ strengths.
“Senior defensive assistant and linebacker coach is his title, but there’s help that he’s going to help us and help me, in particular,” Tomlin said earlier this offseason, via ESPN. “I love sharpening my sword on his and gaining a perspective that his experiences provide, that wise counsel.
“We’re talking about a myriad of things. Whether it’s calendar, whether it’s taking care of players, whether it’s the acquisition or evaluation of talent, it’s been fun to have him. His contributions are going to be significant.”