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Ex-Steelers Coach Brian Flores Succeeding with Tactics He Picked Up in Pittsburgh



Brian Flores Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant Brian Flores at OTAs on May 26, 2022. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Brian Flores has been a successful NFL coach at several stops, but it’s something that he picked up last year during his time as senior defensive assistant of the Pittsburgh Steelers that has him enjoying a strong season in his first as Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator.

With the Vikings, Flores has adopted a variation of a defensive played by Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi this season and it’s been a radical success. The Vikings rank as one of the top defenses in the NFL, allowing just 17.8 points per game and 4.8 yards per play in that time.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert reported how Flores’ time spent with the Steelers last season influenced the way he’s made adjustments to his defense this season. Seifert reported that Flores frequently visited with Tiquan Underwood last season to watch film together, and as those sessions continued, Flores grew “enamored” with what he saw from Narduzzi’s unique defense. It’s an uncommon scheme designed to stop the run at all costs, and rush the passer with abandon often leading to massive sack totals, and it requires defensive backs to operate on islands in one-on-one coverage, and at times, leaves zone coverage with too-few players for the number of routes being run.

It’s largely worked at Pitt, with leading sacks totals in four of the past five seasons and a run defense that ranks among the best in college football — prior to the 2023 season, of course. But it’s so unique that, reportedly, Northern Illinois head coach Joe Novak wouldn’t let Narduzzi run the defense.

The Steelers have their own pressure packages, but it’s interesting that Flores took something from watching Pitt work during his time in Pittsburgh and has applied it to the NFL level with success in Minnesota already. The Steelers did not replace Flores on their staff as senior defensive assistant when he took the job in Minnesota.

The Steelers finished 10th in scoring defense in 2022 with Flores, but without star linebacker T.J. Watt for half the season. This year, despite long-term absences by Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick, they’re currently ranked fifth in scoring defense.