PITTSBURGH — The Steelers hired Brian Flores over the offseason to much shock and interest around the league. While he was named senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach, the Steelers were not going to pass on the opportunity to add one of the better coaches of defense in the NFL to their staff. Now that most of the team has reported to OTAs, most of them are getting their first first-hand experience with Flores, and what they’ve seen has excited them.
That excitement doesn’t just go for the linebackers, but for the rest of the defense, too. Terrell Edmunds is certainly excited about the addition of Flores to the defensive philosophy. He is already seeing his philosophy expand itself all over the defense. While Flores is plying away with Teryl Austin, the players have their ears perked up in excitement.
“He’s a bulldog,” Edmunds said. “Just the way he talks about life, you can tell he’s got the military mentality. He wants everyone and everything to be on point. He’s not letting anybody slack off in practice. We need that here.”
However, the linebackers are the ones who are going to be working closely with Flores. The team of Flores and Jerry Olsavsky is a strong one with continuity and fresh ideas. It is a team that is allowing the linebackers to learn at a different rate than they were previously. Flores’s new ideas and exciting demeanor, though, have brought a fresh perspective to a room that needed some injection of life.
“I love getting to work with Coach Flores,” Robert Spillane said. “He’s a guy who has been a head coach in this league, has experience, and has unique knowledge of the game. He’s special when it comes to linebacker play. That’s his background and he’s comfortable with it. It has been a great experience so far. I think he is really exciting.”
It can be odd to have a new linebackers coach come into the room suddenly, but Olsavsky and Flores are seeing things eye-to-eye. They are trying to match up to their messaging as some of the linebacker philosophy with the Steelers ends up changing around. For Spillane and others, that makes their growth and development all the more comfortable.
“There’s a lot of continuity between them both,” Spillane said. “They do a good job of getting together before they meet with us to make sure they preach the same message across the board. To this point, everything is going smoothly. I can’t wait to see where this progresses.”
This is just a sampling for the Steelers linebackers of the mentality that Flores will bring to the table. The impact will be felt across the defense, where some of Flores’ ideas will be implemented into the defense. For a run defense that struggled heavily last year, his ideas could be something that helps turn that narrative around in Pittsburgh.
“I’m really excited for what Coach Flores is bringing into the system,” Chris Wormley said. “There’s a wealth of knowledge there with him. We have been running and learning some new, really good things.”
There is that military theme that keeps coming up with Flores, though. He is punctual, almost to a point. If anything it messed up, it has to be run back. Until the players do what is asked, there is no moving on. Demanding so much out of the linebackers can not be a bad thing, and Flores’s results in the past have shone through with excellent linebacker play. That helps inspire players to keep doing what he is asking.
“Coach Flores is a great coach,” Buddy Johnson said. “He demands a lot out of us. He brings it out of us, though. That’s what we needed at the linebacker position. We have a lot of talent, we just have to grow.”
For young players like Johnson who still do not have a ton of playing experience on the field at an NFL level, learning the defense and playing fast is the first step toward growing as a player. Flores’ ability to explain concepts and help out his young players is something that is standing out early.
“He does a great job of explaining things,” Johnson said. “He gets guys on the same page. Coach Flo used to be a head coach, so he sees things differently. He sees things as an offensive coach and a defensive coach. He knows what the QBs are thinking. So, he’s giving us a lot of different pointers.”
Flores will try to make an impact and draw out the best in players like Johnson and Spillane, but also Devin Bush. While his ideas will be implemented into the scheme, it may be his position coaching that will need to be the emphasis for Pittsburgh to take the necessary leap at the linebacker spot in 2022.