From an NFL position coach standpoint, there’s likely no one in the NFL creating as much buzz as Brian Flores.
Flores, the former Miami head coach and current Steelers senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Dolphins, the NFL, as well as the New York Giants and Denver Broncos, claiming racial discrimination during his firing by Miami and subsequent interview process, as he attempted to attain a head coaching job elsewhere.
“My focus is really on today, this team, this practice,” he said Wednesday during Pittsburgh’s minicamp. “I try to live in the moment and not think about things that have happened in the past.”
The NFL, since the allegations and lawsuit was filed, has implemented new hiring practices and changed the Rooney Rule to try to better diversify the coaching ranks. Flores was a bit more open to talking about that, but still did not want to dive deep into his issues with the league and its teams.
“Any time you create a situation where gas get opportunity, I'm all for that,” he said. “I’ll kind of leave it there.”
A former assistant under Bill Belichick in New England, Flores went 24-25 in Miami as a head coach, but he did go 19-14 over the last two seasons and ended last year by winning eight of nine games. Still, Miami fired him.
Reports have surfaced since that Flores’ demanding style of coaching rubbed players the wrong way. Steelers players, like safety Terrell Edmunds, have referred to Flores as have a ‘military mentality’ and as a ‘bulldog.’
“Look, I’m demanding, make no bones about it,” he said. “I think Mike (Tomlin) is demanding. That’s coaching. Our guys have responded to it well. When you’re trying to help someone grow, get better, they need those details, that push to get to the next level. I’ll always do that.”
Flores’ hiring caught some by surprise. Those who go after the NFL typically struggle to find work in the league again. But here Flores is, playing what many feel to be a pivotal role. And Tomlin appears to be the reason why.
“I have a great deal of respect for (Tomlin), and really all of the coaches on the staff and everyone in this organization,” he said. “He’s someone I consider a friend, someone I go to for wisdom and counsel.”
The 41-year-old has primarily worked with inside linebackers during OTAs and now minicamp, but he does feel that his reach will impact other positions, as well.
“I’m trying to help in any way I can,” he said. “If that’s linebackers, obviously. If it’s getting water, I’ll get water. Whatever it is to help the team win, that’s what I’m about.”
Flores will try to play a pivotal role in revitalizing the young career of former first-round pick Devin Bush, who struggled in 2021 following a torn ACL.
“My conversations with all of the players are similar,” he said. “You’re going to get out what you put in. Devin is obviously very talented. He’s a smart kid. I’ve had a good report and good conversations with him thus far.
“The physical part, he looks good out here. He’s moving around well. But I’d say that’s the case for all of them… You can’t really evaluate linebackers until you put pads on.”
Time will tell how big Flores’ impact will be on the Steelers, but a coached perceived as an elite defensive mind is typically not a bad thing to add to a coaching staff.
Flores, for now, is accepting of being a piece instead of the leader. That might change in the future, and he certainly seems more than open to jumping back into the head coaching waters. But, for now, he’s on board with lending a helping hand, and trying to bring a championship to Pittsburgh.
“There’s a long history of very good defense here and a lot of great coaches who have done it at a high level here for a very long time,” he said. “I’m on an everyday journey to try to improve and get better. That’s what I want for myself and our players.”