The Pittsburgh Steelers once had three former head coaches on their staff as coordinators or position coaches. Under Mike Tomlin, he had Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator, Todd Haley as offensive coordinator, and Mike Munchak as offensive line coach at the same time.
His current staff isn’t quite that established, but he does have one former head coach under him—for now. That’s of course Brian Flores, his “senior defensive assistant”, who has already been linked to numerous posts for both head coach and defensive coordinator this offseason. There’s a very good chance they lose him after just one season.
Perhaps not without good reason. It was a shock to many when the Miami Dolphins fired him in the first place. And while his impact on the Steelers this season has largely been invisible to outsiders, he’s been routinely spoken of highly by those closer to the team. Even those on the fringes, like former offensive lineman Craig Wolfley, who similarly came away impressed and compared him to Tomlin.
“You get a little bit of that sizzle when you talk to Brian Flores, appearing on the Wolf and Luke Show podcast—the Wolf in question being his brother, fellow former NFL player Ron Wolfley. “There’s something about the guy…every time I’ve come across him, it’s been a positive experience, but he’s just got that sort of look and essence about him that says ‘I can do this’. He’s got that big dog leader in him”.
Of course, he has been that big dog leader after serving as head coach for three seasons in Miami. Granted, there have been some mixed opinions about how he conducted himself as a leader during his time there, but by and large he has always gotten favorable reviews.
Given the sub-title of inside linebackers coach, Flores’ imprint on the 2022 Steelers was somewhat hard to detect, let alone define, but one tangible improvement from the previous season to the next was the play of Devin Bush, which went from terrible to tolerable.
But others have spoken on his behalf, such as defensive lineman Chris Wormley, who gave Flores a lot of credit for helping the Steelers improve their run defense. Even though they missed T.J. Watt for most of the first half of the season, they went from the worst run defense in 2021 to finishing in the top 10, including allowing the fewest rushing touchdowns.
“You get senses about people, and every now and then your wire goes up when you meet somebody and there’s this little crackle of electricity that kind of goes, ‘Whoa’”, Wolfley said, recalling the first moment Tomlin was introduced as the Steelers’ new head coach before comparing that feeling somewhat to Flores. “I don’t know how you judge it. I don’t know how it comes off. You know it when you see it”.
The Dolphins saw it, and surely New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick saw it. It does seem inevitable that another team will see it strongly enough to give him another head coaching job. The only question is how long that will take.