Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wouldn’t have bothered to hire Brian Flores this offseason if he didn’t believe that he was going to be tangible asset in what he is able to convey to his players on the field. And throughout the season, we’ve heard nothing but praise for his ability to do just that.
Though he has an emphasis on the linebackers, Flores’ versatility has allowed him to be useful up and down the roster. Even quarterback Mitch Trubisky just this week discussed how he’s regularly picked his brain about how defenses read offenses. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada admitted the same.
But of course it’s his linebackers who have the most acute familiarity with what he brings to the table on a daily basis, and after the Steelers’ first game of the regular season, third-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith was asked about his impact.
“Coach Flores has done a great job of coming in and just adding a lot of value”, he told reporters via the team’s website. “He’s a head coach in this league for a reason, and it’s shown. Just hearing the way he talks, you could see why he’s so wise and such a great coach, and I think he’s really added a lot of value to our linebacker room and also just to the defense as a whole when it comes to the run game and [in general]”.
I likely don’t need to tell you Flores’ story at this point. He spent the previous three season as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, where he was generally perceived to have performed above expectations in adverse circumstances.
Prior to that, he had a long history with the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick, actually beginning his tenure in the league as a scout before working his was into the coaching staff, during which time he wore many different hats, ultimately playing a key role in leading the defense.
He is serving in the capacity of senior defensive assistant, nominally, while under Tomlin in Pittsburgh, with Teryl Austin wearing the defensive coordinator title, and at least visually seeming to have some share of the play-calling responsibilities based on the broadcast of the opener.
Highsmith praised both of them, noting of course that Austin has been in the system for a few years now, having previously worn the senior defensive assistant label prior to being promoted this offseason following the retirement of Keith Butler from the coordinator’s chair.
The defense put up a very solid performance on Sunday, particularly with respect to producing splash plays, but they still allowed a number of extended drives, and ultimately gave up what should have been the game-winning score in the waning seconds of regulation. There is—as there will always be—room for improvement. But there’s also time for it as well.