PITTSBURGH — It’s a cold, grey October day as Brian Flores stands on a sideline of the Pittsburgh Steelers apply fields and laughs on the query.
Per week and a half from this second, he’ll step again inside Laborious Rock Stadium for the primary time since he was fired because the Miami Dolphins head coach in January regardless of recording the Dolphins’ first back-to-back profitable seasons since 2003. He subsequently filed a lawsuit in opposition to his former employer, three different groups and the NFL for discriminatory practices in hiring and firing practices on Feb. 1. Since he filed the lawsuit, two extra coaches, Ray Horton and Steve Wilks, have joined as plaintiffs, and the NFL has argued to push the case out of the general public eye and into arbitration.
However does that current historical past, one which’s develop into a flashpoint for dialogue round race and training alternative, give Flores any further juice coming into Sunday night time’s sport? Might it’s, maybe, a revenge sport?
“No, no,” Flores stated with a chuckle. “That’s not the way I’m looking at it now.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who employed Flores as a senior defensive assistant in February after Flores known as Tomlin for recommendation, additionally downplayed Flores’ lawsuit and his return to Miami.
“It’s a nonfactor,” Tomlin stated of the pending lawsuit. “It’s irrelevant in terms of what we’re doing here today in preparation for this game. It is a non-story for us. It really is.”
Like Tomlin, Flores is approaching this sport with a businesslike mentality, however he’s additionally acknowledging that there are reminiscences that may come flooding again when he steps off the bus in Miami Gardens. His historical past with the group is sophisticated, and his emotions about returning for Sunday’s sport are possible the identical. Even so, he smiles as he talks concerning the relationships he shaped with Dolphins athletic trainers Kyle Johnston and Troy Maurer and tools supervisor Joe Cimino in Miami, and the way a lot he’s trying ahead to seeing them once more.
“I don’t have bad memories of the place,” stated Flores, who compiled a 24-25 file in three seasons as Miami’s head coach. “I have a lot of good memories, but my focus is here right now.”
“When I think of that place, I think of all the relationships that were built there that are bigger than football and will go a long way beyond football. There’s a lot of those that like that there, players, coaches, support staff. That’s kind of where my thought process goes.”
Flores, 41, arrived in Pittsburgh in February. Along with Tomlin and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Flores helps develop a defensive plan every week, and he additionally spends time teaching the linebackers. Among the many gamers he coaches is former first-round inside linebacker Devin Bush, closely scrutinized and criticized for inconsistent play after an ACL tear in 2019 that derailed a promising begin. In Flores, Bush discovered a coach that’s direct in his instruction and provides suggestions in weekly grade sheets. Having tangible measurements of his progress and explicitly verbalized expectations is useful, Bush stated.
“He expects us to be Superman,” stated Bush, who added he had his highest-graded sport after the Steelers’ win in opposition to the Buccaneers. “If you’re not Superman then you’re not playing to your ability.
“Monday you know you’re going to get a grade sheet, and if you’re not Superman then you’re going to get a bad grade. … Feedback is always good. Whether it’s good, no positive or negative.”
Flores enters this week after vanquishing an previous acquainted face. Along with his assist, the Steelers’ shorthanded protection upset Tom Brady and the Buccaneers as almost double-digit underdogs. And whereas Flores wasn’t intimately aware of Tampa Bay’s system, he did present an important window into the quarterback’s thoughts, information he gained in 10 seasons on the New England Patriots’ teaching workers.
In apply earlier than the Steelers’ 20-18 win, Flores meticulously went over a play the place he anticipated Brady to look from the strongside linebacker earlier than throwing it to the weak facet. Come that Sunday, Brady focused receiver Chris Godwin on a crossing route within the second quarter. Jack acknowledged what was taking place, however he was only a step off of Godwin. Brady tried to take advantage of the state of affairs, however he missed the throw for an incomplete go.
“He was spot-on, man,” inside linebacker Myles Jack stated. “He was like, ‘It’s going to play out just like this, I’m telling you.’ And that same play happened. He just has a very, very good understanding, especially when we were playing Tom. He was like, ‘We have to be where we’re supposed to be, and if we’re misaligned or miscommunicating, he’s going to find it.’”
And but, the Steelers had been hardly ever misaligned. Even with plenty of new faces, the communication was almost seamless.
Taking part in for Flores was among the many issues that attracted Jack to signing with the Steelers in free company. Via the offseason and 6 weeks of the common season, Jack and Flores have developed a gentle rapport. Flores calls Jack, probably the most veteran inside linebacker within the room, the “voice of reason.”
“I think it’s funny,” Jack stated. “I think I’m just the guy that’s kind of played the most snaps. Everybody has their own perspective. We collaborate on something and some people may feel one way, some people may feel another. I’ll just kind of throw my opinion in there.”
Jack stated Flores is meticulous in detailing his plans and direct in his suggestions as Bush stated he cuts the “fluff,” and is a stickler for communication.
It’s one in all Flores’ important tenets of teaching, and he ceaselessly takes concepts talked about within the inside linebacker room to different place group conferences to verify everybody’s talking the identical language.
“He’s a great communicator,” Tomlin stated. “You don’t ascend in this business the way he has without having certain tools. And he has consistently displayed those tools since he’s been here.”
However as open as he’s with communication, Flores nonetheless retains the small print of what occurred in Miami largely to himself.
“Obviously you hear the headlines and everything on TV and stuff like that, but we have yet to really get his perspective,” Jack stated. “Like we try to ask him to mess with him and say little jokes. … Even if we bring it up, he’ll dodge it and won’t even talk about it, keep it about football, beating the Dolphins. One day I’m sure we’ll have a conversation about everything, but he keeps it strictly business. It’s going to be kind of a cool week for him.”
If Flores views Pittsburgh as a brief cease on his method again to a head-coaching job, he’s not sharing his plans publicly. Shortly after accepting Tomlin’s job provide, Flores purchased a home a neighborhood over from Tomlin’s within the coronary heart of Pittsburgh.
“I’m focused on right now,” Flores stated. “We’ve got a good group. I’m enjoying coaching with these players and learning under Mike T. That’s been fun. That’s been a lot of fun. It’s a great learning experience for me and that’s kind of where I’m at.”
As for purchasing a home over renting and what that would probably sign about his future with the Steelers?
“Talk to my financial advisor.”