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The 2022 Steelers’ Biggest Addition Might Be Brian Flores Now That T.J. Watt Is Missing From The Defense

Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2022 Steelers’ Biggest Addition Might Be Brian Flores Now That T.J. Watt Is Missing From The Defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers will match up on Sunday with a familiar foe, the New England Patriots at 1pm ET. It will be the home opener for the black and gold and the first time the two teams have met since the 2019 season. The Steelers are coming off of a thrilling road victory in overtime against the Cincinnati Bengals, but will be without the 2021 AP Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt.

Steelers Watt

Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers

Oddsmakers have made Pittsburgh a home underdog to the Patriots who struggled in a loss to the Miami Dolphins in their opening game last weekend. Mike Tomlin is 3-8 in his career against the Patriots, but it will be the first time that Tomlin will meet up with Bill Belichick without Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady playing quarterback. There will be another big difference in this meeting, Brian Flores, the former New England assistant will be in the Steelers locker room.

Steelers Brian Flores

Pittsburgh Steelers Senior Defensive Assistant/Linebackers coach Brian Flores participates in the Organized Team Activities (OTA’s), Tuesday May 31, 2022 at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. (Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers)

Flores was the only former Belichick assistant who had a winning record against his former boss going 4-2. He also owns the best winning percentage of any coach against the Belichick-era Patriots. His quick hire in Pittsburgh as a linebackers coach after a controversial departure from Miami was a major surprise to many in NFL circles. Teryl Austin and Tomlin have not spoken publicly about how involved Flores is in the game planning defensively, but based on his success in Miami, it stands to reason that he has shared his secret sauce of how to succeed on Sunday.

Flores featured some unorthodox schemes when he coached the Dolphins and the Steelers defense without Watt will need some out of the box thinking to maintain the level of success they enjoyed in Week 1. The Steelers, despite the loss of Watt, still have Myles Jack and Alex Highsmith filling two of the four linebacker spots and they are extremely talented NFL players. Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Malik Reed, David Anenih and rookie Mark Robinson will all have to raise their level of play to ensure that the gap on defense is minimized without Watt in the lineup. Flores will be tasked with mixing and matching this group to ensure maximum productivity in the weeks to come.

Steelers Ogunjobi

Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

The good news is that the addition of Larry Ogunjobi on the defensive line paid immediate dividends against the Bengals. It should guarantee that teams cannot arbitrarily double team Highsmith and expect to block Cam Heyward and Ogunjobi on the interior of the line one on one successfully. Patriots second-year quarterback, Mac Jones is not a stationary target, but he does not move like Joe Burrow and some of the other quarterbacks that Pittsburgh will face in the coming weeks.


2022 Home Opener Features Intriguing Matchup Of The Steelers Secondary Versus The Patriots Playmakers


This should be a good opportunity to experiment with different pressure packages from the linebacker group. One of the many advantages when Watt is on the field is that the Steelers can drop seven players into coverage which makes it more difficult for a quarterback to find a receiver before he gets home. The wide receivers for the Patriots will have a difficult time getting open against the athletic Pittsburgh secondary, but they may have to rush five and sometimes six defenders to generate the same pressure they are used to getting which could leave them vulnerable to the tight ends and running backs from New England.

Watt is expected to miss at least six weeks rehabbing his pectoral injury and could be out for longer depending on how he responds to rehab. The Steelers next three games are extremely important against the Patriots, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets to ensure that they are ready for what waits for them when they head to Buffalo a month from now. Flores’ role in preparing the defense over the next three weeks will be vital to the Pittsburgh playoff hopes. Austin and Tomlin were smart enough to bring him into the fold, now they just have to keep their egos in check and let him work.

 

What do you think, Steeler Nation? Is Brian Flores up to the task of keeping the Steelers defense on top while Watt recovers? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.

I have been rooting for the Steelers actively since 1975. I love the Black and Gold and support them through thick and thin. I am a Navy Veteran, living in Jacksonville, FL and never miss a chance to go to the neutral site games here in Jacksonville. I am new to the Steeler Nation website, but I love discussing Steelers Past, Present and Future.

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