There was no bigger surprise Saturday than when the Steelers landed Brian Flores as their senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach. To say it came out of nowhere would be an understatement, as it appeared Flores may not get a job at all in the NFL. With his ongoing lawsuit against the NFL, it was likely heading that way until the surprising news of today.
There is that angle for the Steelers and Flores. Flores gets to coach, but he is massively overqualified for the job. The Steelers organization itself is taking a stand. On all accounts, this is a good thing for the Steelers and hopefully, for Flores. Maybe this can be the platform Flores needs to jolt himself back in the head coaching discussion. He should not need a platform to do that given his qualifications, but that is the problem. That is why Flores’s lawsuit will and should continue to rage on.
Flores is overqualified for the job, but that makes him one of the best staff additions to the Steelers staff in quite some time. He has all the qualifications to be a head coach. In New England, his defense improved the lines as the defensive play caller. New England’s pressure rate spiked up nearly 10 percentage points the year Flores was the defensive play-caller. There is a real feel for his strength here as a pressure and blitz scheme guru.
Even without a star pass rusher, the Dolphins continued to put up impressive sack numbers and pressure stats. With the loss of Keith Butler to retirement, the Steelers needed someone to fill that void. There is no better man to bring innovative schemes to the front than Flores. The Steelers ran a very similar scheme in many respects to the one that Flores ran in New England and Miami.
The over front that Flores likes to run is something that could add wrinkles to the Steelers’ sub packages. There may be more of a hint of stacked blitzes off the edge, especially with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in the division. The highlight of Flores’ blitz schemes is the way he integrates his inside linebackers. They are a focal point of the blitz and they have to be aggressive in coming downhill. The Steelers may need to draft some players to fit this category more, but scanning the current roster, Robert Spillane may find himself a nice fit in this defense.
As a position coach, Flores can help his players come along with his hard-nosed style. He is a culture builder who cares about his players. It must be understood that the Steelers linebackers needed some type of jolt to get back into shape. With young linebackers likely coming in and Devin Bush trying to bounce back, this is the best news for them. Bush, especially, should be excited. If there is one coach that can work with him and get him into form, Flores would be the man for the job.
Flores rose to prominence in New England because he was able to use the unique skillset of guys like Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont’a Hightower in ways that were very specific to their skillsets. When Flores decides how to deploy his inside linebackers as pass rushers and their overall play in the middle of the defense, he will cater it to their strengths as a whole.
On all fronts, this is a home run hire for the Steelers. The linebacker room needs development and a jolt from hard-nosed, tough coaching is what that room could use. In addition, they get a blitz front guru in Flores to replace the loss of Butler from the offseason. Hopefully, this is able to get Flores back to the head coaching ranks. The Steelers, with their talent up front and his schematic mind, might just be able to get Flores back where he belongs.