The Pittsburgh Steelers fell into a gold mine when they landed former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores this spring. Flores was fired by the Dolphins in what was believed by many as a wrong move. Flores had turned the Dolphins around and had back to back winning seasons for the first time in recent memory.
After Flores was fired he filed a lawsuit against the NFL for discrimination. He accused them of holding fake interviews to satisfy the Rooney Rule, and then later claimed that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to pay Flores to purposely lose football games. When the lawsuit was filed it was believed by many that the NFL, and it’s owners would band together to blackball Flores for filing the suit.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin who remains one of the few minority head coaches left in the NFL reached out to Flores even though he hardly knew him. On Tuesday Tomlin opened up on The Pivot Podcast with hosts Ryan Clark, Fred Taylor, and Channing Crowder about the process leading up to Flores being hired.
“I guess for me, for a period of time, I just refused to acknowledge that he wasn’t going to get another opportunity,” Tomlin said of Flores. “And so when the process started happening for him, he filed a lawsuit. I shot him a text. You’re not alone, holla at me if I could be of some service to you. I didn’t know Flo like that, okay? I really didn’t. I really didn’t meet him until he became head coach of the Dolphins. And just, Hey, man, congratulations and all the best of what it is that you’re doing, I’m rooting for you, other than when you stand on that other side. You know what I mean? One of them. And every now and then we would talk on league related matters, man, but really no personal relationship. But when he filed a lawsuit, I said, Man, I imagine people are moving away from this dude, and I just want him to know that I’m not moving away from him. I’m not moving to him because I don’t know him like that.”
Amongst the Steeler Nation community it was believed that the Steelers still had a shot at Flores even with other teams bulking at him. After all the Rooney rule was put into place with good intentions by Steelers legend Dan Rooney. With Rooney no longer around it seemed like some teams were failing to respect the rules set forth by him. So with that in mind it made perfect sense for the Steelers to stick up for Flores. But it took awhile before it got around to that type of conversation according to Tomlin.
“I think the Giant opportunity that fell through for him, and I don’t know if it was, it may have been one job or maybe a job or two open left, but he just had a good feeling that he wasn’t in play for them. And so he started asking me advice now, man, I want to coach, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I said hey man wait before this thing goes any further, man, if you want to coach and there are no head coaching opportunities for you, you don’t need to make another phone call.”
Then this part of the story shows you just how very different it is in Pittsburgh.
“I didn’t initiate this relationship for that. That wasn’t the spirit in which I reached out to you [Flores]. But if that’s where this is heading, right? What are we talking about, right? You know what I mean? It’s funny. I said ‘hey, man, give me 24 hours’, whatever. Let me kick this around a little bit,” Tomlin said. “And so I go down the hall and I walk into Art Rooney’s office. I say, Art, I’ve been talking to Brian Flores, man, kind of on a lot of things, just staying close to him, et cetera, et cetera. But now this thing is pushed toward coaching, man, this dude want to coach football, and I want to hire him. And he was like, ‘great’. That’s the extent of the conversation. I told Flo, give me 24 hours, but I think I called them back like, 45 minutes later. I didn’t want to miss. I didn’t want to miss, you know what I mean? Because I didn’t have a coordinator job available or something. I thought somebody else might have something more attractive, and so I wouldn’t move with a certain swiftness. “
There wasn’t a need for a meeting. There wasn’t a need for anything special. It was Tomlin walking down the hall to Art Rooney II’s office and asking a simple question. Rooney didn’t need to debate it. He didn’t need to think about it. He certainly knew of Flores the person, and what was going on with his law suit. But that wasn’t on Art’s mind. A simple ‘great’ was his response and away Tomlin went.
With Flores on the staff the Steelers now have that extra discipline that many Steeler fans have been calling on for years. There won’t be any screwing off this season according to safety Terrell Edmunds.
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