How the Steelers got better by hiring Brian Flores, who will continue the lawsuit against the NFL

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PITTSBURGH – Brian Flores has the resume as an NFL head coach.

Four years as a New England Patriots scout. Fifteen seasons as Patriots assistant coach. Four Super Bowl wins. Three seasons – including two winning seasons – as Miami Dolphins head coach.

Still, Flores will not be the head coach for the 2022 season. It was a risk he acknowledged when he filed a lawsuit against the NFL and three teams, including the Dolphins, alleging racial discrimination in hiring practices and in his firing.

“We did not have to file a lawsuit for the world to know there was a problem,” Flores said on ESPN’s Get Up! earlier in the month. “We need change. That was reason # 1. I know there are victims who are at risk, but ultimately we need change.”

Flores joins the Pittsburgh Steelers as senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach in a job announcement Saturday afternoon.

“I’m excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff because of his history of developing and teaching defenders during his time in the NFL,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement. “Brian’s resume speaks for itself and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team.”

Make no mistake, this is a significant football rental for the Steelers and Tomlin. Flores helped build a famous defense in New England, and it’s not often a team hires someone with that experience and head coach credentials for an assistant position under the coordinator.

But Flores, 40, was available because he was not hired by any of the four teams he interviewed for a head coach position in the 2022 cycle.

The Steelers assured that Flores will be on an NFL staff while he has pending lawsuits against the league, even though he is overqualified to be the Steelers’ senior defensive assistant and linebacker coach. Not only has Flores been the head coach and guided the Dolphins to an 8-1 finish after a 1-7 start, he also coached the Patriots’ linebackers for three seasons and called games in New England’s Super Bowl LIII victory.

But even with his lineage, Flores is neither the defensive coordinator nor he is expected to be the playcaller in Pittsburgh. The first title belongs to Teryl Austin, who was previously a senior defensive assistant and secondary coach. The other is not yet officially announced, but Tomlin will likely continue to play defensive tackles.

“He’s a leading coach who had a pretty good defense in Miami,” Steelers defense captain Cam Heyward told ESPN. “We look forward to working with him and helping us all grow.”

To avoid a complete rebuild in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, the Steelers need a strong offseason. Filling coaching positions with respected heavy-hitters like Flores is the first step to achieving that.

By hiring Flores, the Steelers get a veteran leader to add a new set of ideas to the defense and a big boost to a position group that needs to be renewed after finishing late in the league in the urgent defense last season. The addition should also help with the development of former top-10 pick Devin Bush, who had a disappointing season after an ACL repair. And Flores gets a position with one of the NFL’s flagship organizations, one that has been a champion of diversity in the league, in a role where he has been a proven winner while remaining a catalyst for change.

“We congratulate Coach Flores on his new position at the Steelers and thank Coach Tomlin and the organization for giving him this great opportunity,” Flores’ lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis, said in a statement. “While coach Flores is now focused on his new position, he will continue with his racial class action lawsuit so that real changes can be made in the NFL.”

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