Jun 9, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach Brian Flores at minicamp at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
This Sunday, after matching wits with Boyer in the opener and presuming the play-calling process goes unchanged, Patricia will try to orchestrate the Pats’ offense opposite another former defensive colleague.
In March, Mike Tomlin hired Flores as senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach on coordinator Teryl Austin’s staff. The impact was immediate.
Linebacker Myles Jack chose to sign a two-year contract in free agency, citing Flores during his introductory press conference as a factor in his decision.
“He’s a great coach,” Jack said on March 17. “I saw what he did last year in Miami, how he turned that whole thing around. I think it was amazing what he did. After I told Coach Tomlin we were definitely going to make this thing happen, I actually got a chance to talk with Coach Flores, and we both kind of came to the agreement that we both have something to prove.
“Him feeling his way in his situation and myself…getting released, I feel like I got a second chance at life. I’m just super excited. I feel like we kind of vibed about that connection. I’m very excited to work with him and just see what I can learn and see how we can collaborate to make this thing go.”
After experiencing some of what he anticipated with Flores as his position coach, Mack expounded on their relationship during a late-May episode of the Steelers Blitz podcast.
“No question about it, for me to have the opportunity to have him as a position coach, I feel like I’m stealing,” Jack told host Chris Carter. “And for me that was the main thing coming here, make plays, try to get my career back on track and trying to get everything right. I feel like it’s been a great mixture. He’s been teaching me so much, and just how detailed-oriented he is, that’s something I really needed and it’s been great. I’m blessed to have him.”
By late summer, Jack was even more sure of his springtime impressions.
“Yeh, definitely, he’s brought a different perspective on ball,” Jack said after an Aug. 1 practice. “I’ve learned a lot by listening to him speak. I pretty much write down everything he says, even if it doesn’t necessarily pertain to what we’re learning. He just has a perspective on things and being a (former) head coach.
“It’s really made me look at football in completely different light. He’s shown us what the offense is trying to do and, being a head coach, he’s going to show you literally a 360 view of what they’re trying to do and we’re trying to do and how we can beat what they’re trying to do, like playing battlefield almost. It’s really cool.”
Teammates concurred, according to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly.
“He is a teacher and student,” safety Cam Sutton said during OTA’s. “He has been a great influence on us in a short period.”
“Just the way he coaches, you can tell that he is a super-intelligent guy,” cornerback Levi Wallace added. “Just the schemes and how he breaks it down. He takes the time, sits down, and talks it out with the guy.”
Kaboly noted that Flores’s role during OTA’s expanded to work with the defensive line. His perspective proved freshly unique to 33-year-old, eight-time captain Cam Heyward.
“He gives us an extra set of eyes that looks at things differently,” Heyward said. “When you are a head coach and a defensive coordinator before, you see a lot. He knows how to talk about global things and break them down to a specific position. Just the other day, he was telling the younger guys that they need to learn the offensive line positions. If you haven’t been around the game long, you are thinking you are only going to need to learn your side.”
Those were words Kaboly heard and reported four months ago.
These are observations he shared on Tom Curran’s Patriots Talk Podcast after the Steelers sacked Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow seven times and force five turnovers in their 23-20, overtime win on Sunday:
“He’s considered a linebacker coach,” Kaboly said to Curran. “But what he really is is Mike Tomlin’s right-hand man. I mean he’s the guy that’s obviously been there, done that (and) should be still doing that at a higher level than he is, as a special assistant to the defense or whatever his title is right now.
“So you’ve got three very smart defensive guys in Tomlin, the D’ coordinator, new this year, Teryl Austin and Brian Flores getting together every Tuesday…putting together a game plan. And you saw a lot of different wrinkles (with) what they did against the Bengals.”
Right from the very start.
On the first play from scrimmage, Heyward sacked Burrow. On the second, Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted him, returning the theft 31 yards for a score. On three of the next four possessions, Burrow lost a fumble and was picked off twice more.