(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Even with a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams over alleged racial discrimination in hiring practices, the Steelers hired Brian Flores as their senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach in February. It was a move that was applauded across the league.
Flores called Tomlin looking for advice, and that's when Tomlin offered him a position with the Steelers, which was accepted two days later. Tomlin is one of three Black head coaches in the NFL.
"I wanted to stay close to Brian when his legal issues started," Tomlin said at the NFL Owners Meetings on Sunday in Palm Beach, Fla. "I just didn’t want him to feel like he was on an island. From a coaching fraternity standpoint, I owed him that. ... I was in position to provide that."
Flores is a Bill Belichick prodigy, as he spent 11 seasons in New England in various roles prior to becoming the Dolphins head coach in 2019. Flores, 40, is a Brooklyn native and played at Boston College as a linebacker from 1999 through 2002. Flores got his start with the Patriots when he was 23 as a scouting assistant in 2004. Flores worked his way up the ranks and was the Patriots linebackers coach from 2016-2018.
Flores led the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2002-2003 and was still fired. Flores is grossly overqualified for his current title with the Steelers, but Tomlin made it clear that he'll have his fingerprints all over the defense.
"Senior defensive assistant and linebacker coach is his title, but there’s so many ways that he’s going to help us and help me, in particular," Tomlin said. "I love sharpening my sword on his and gaining a perspective his experiences provide. We’re talking about a myriad of things. His contributions are going to be significant.”
The NFL still has a major issue with a lack of minority hiring at all levels. It's a problem that the Steelers don't have, however, as the organization has always been at the forefront of promoting diversity. It's something that Tomlin takes pride in.
"It's one of the things that makes me most proud being a part of our organization," Tomlin said on hiring Flores. "To have an opportunity to impact the game in a positive way, to impact society in a positive way… it’s continually an honor."