On the surface, the addition of Brian Flores to the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff was a total slamdunk. It was a necessary move but one that no one saw coming.
Steelers Nation begged and pleaded for an external hire, something that, before Flores, had never been done under Mike Tomlin.
On both sides of the ball, the Steelers grew stale. Their offense was predictable for reasons that should be helped by the Ben Roethlisberger retirement. Excluding T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward, the defense wasn’t impactful for reasons that should be helped by an fresh perspective with a defensive mind.
“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 head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Brian’s resume speaks for itself, and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team.”
It sounds all well and good, right?
Beneath the surface, after peeling back the complicated layers, a disaster could be lurking.
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Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
Looking at it from the other side, here’s why the hire could go very wrong. Brian Flores is the first big name to be hired as an assistant by the Steelers. Mike Tomlin calls the shots on defense, and finding a smart, defensive mind who wants to take a back seat can’t be easy. The club has previously remedied that problem by promoting from within.
Before his surprise and controversial firing, Flores had success in Miami. He led the Dolphins to a 24-25 overall record and guided the team to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in two decades.
Swallowing his pride and accepting a lesser role had to be humbling for Flores. Sure, Flores dug his own grave by filing a class-action lawsuit against the Dolphins, the NFL and two other teams, but “trouble” playmakers with proven talent find teams all the time.
The interesting aspect to watch will be how the Flores hire changes the Steelers defense, if at all. Will Tomlin be willing to delegate play-calling duties to Flores? If Flores wants to implement some new ideas — and you’d think that’s one of the reasons why he was hired — how open will Tomlin be? And what about Teryl Austin — the man the Steelers promoted to defensive coordinator when Keith Butler retired? If the situation isn’t handled carefully, it could result in a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.
Minkah, Meet Brian
The second reason why the Flores hire could spell disaster for the Pittsburgh Steelers has a name: Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The Steelers were only lucky enough to land Minkah Fitzpatrick in a trade because he no longer wanted to be with the team he was on. That team was the Miami Dolphins. Who was the head coach? Yep, you guessed it — Brian Flores.
A year after the blockbuster trade, Fitzpatrick confirmed in an in-depth interview with Bleacher Report‘s Tyler Dunne that he felt Flores was misusing him.
“[Fitzpatrick] was asked to essentially abandon his instincts and move to a strong safety role that, in the Dolphins’ scheme, was really more of a quasi-linebacker, mashing into a pile of 300-pound linemen,” Dunne wrote.
“It was maddening, like playing with a straitjacket on. Fitzpatrick could not be himself, and his head coach would not budge.”
So, Fitzpatrick got out.
Miami’s loss was Pittsburgh’s gain.
Fitzpatrick and Flores’ team-altering tryst could make for an awkward encounter once offseason training begins. But it’s more likely nothing comes of it. Flores is coaching linebackers, not the defensive backs. Furthermore, their disagreement was in 2018, and, as they say, time heals all wounds.