The Pittsburgh Steelers found a supremely qualified individual to fill their previously vacant roles at senior defensive assistant and linebacker coach. Brian Flores, who recently concluded a three-year run as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, will fill both positions with the Steelers, the club announced Saturday.
Flores, who earlier this month sued the NFL for racial discrimination, went 19-14 during his final two seasons as the Dolphins’ coach. Prior to coaching the Dolphins, the 40-year-old coach spent 15 seasons with the Patriots that included stints as special teams, linebackers and safeties coach. New England won four Super Bowls during Flores’ run with the organization.
“I am excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff given his history of developing and teaching defensive players during his time in the NFL,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement. “Brian’s resume speaks for itself, and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team.”
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Flores will succeed Teryl Austin as Pittsburgh’s senior defensive assistant after Austin was promoted to defensive coordinator. As linebackers coach, Flores will work closely with Jerry Olsavsky, who has served as the Steelers’ inside linebackers coach since the 2015 season.
“We congratulate Coach Flores on his new position with the Steelers and thank Coach Tomlin and the organization for giving him this great opportunity,” Flores’ attorneys said in a statement, via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “While Coach Flores is now focused on his new position, he will continue with his race discrimination class action so that real change can be made to the NFL.”
In Pittsburgh, Flores will get a chance to work with reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt and All-Pro defensive tackle Cameron Heyward. Flores will also be reunited with two-time All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was traded from Miami to Pittsburgh during Flores’ first season as the Dolphins’ head coach.
Flores was hired by the Dolphins in 2019 after helping the Patriots hold the Rams to just three points in Super Bowl LIII. Two years earlier, while serving as New England’s linebackers coach, the Patriots defeated the Falcons in Super Bowl LI after linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s strip-sack of Matt Ryan ignited the largest come-from-behind win in Super Bowl history. In 2008, his first season as special teams coach, Flores worked with then-rookie Matthew Slater, who this past season was selected to his 10th Pro Bowl as a special teams player.
In Miami, Flores inherited a team that was clearly in rebuilding mode after winning 13 games the previous two seasons. The team traded former starters Fitzpatrick, Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Kiko Alonso, as well as part-time starter Kenyan Drake, during the season’s first two months. Miami started the 2019 season with an 0-7 record before rallying to finish with a 5-11 record. That was the season when Flores alleged that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 per loss in order to increase Miami’s odds at securing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Dolphins ended up with the No. 5 overall pick, which they used to select former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
With Tagovailoa winning two-thirds of his starts as a rookie, the Dolphins finished the 2020 season with a 10-6 record to finish just outside of the AFC playoff picture. Miami started 1-7 this season before rallying to win seven consecutive game to climb back into playoff contention. The Dolphins ultimately missed the playoffs last season but were able to salvage a winning record after defeating the Patriots in Week 18.
Ross sent shockwaves throughout the NFL when he decided to fire Flores just days after the conclusion of the 2021 season. The Dolphins replaced Flores with former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel.
Flores was reportedly a finalist for head coaching positions in Houston and New Orleans, but those clubs instead chose to hire from within; Houston promoted former defensive coordinator and Bears head coach Lovie Smith, while the Saints promoted former defensive coordinator and Raiders head coach Dennis Allen.
While he may be a head coach again sometime in the future, Flores will first join forces with Tomlin, who this past season became the first coach to begin his career with 15 non-losing seasons. The 2021 Steelers made the playoffs on the strength of the league’s top-ranked pass rush, led by Watt’s 22.5 sacks. Pittsburgh will look to strengthen the offensive and defensive lines this offseason in both free agency as well as during the draft.
The Steelers will also have a new quarterback this season after Ben Roethlisberger retired after an 18-year career that included two Super Bowl victories and three Super Bowl appearances.