The Pittsburgh Steelers hired former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores as senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach, the team announced Saturday.
Flores' hire comes just over a month after he was fired by Miami after three seasons and 18 days after he filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams, including the Dolphins, alleging a pattern of racist hiring practices by the league and other forms of racial discrimination.
"I am excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff given his history of developing and teaching defensive players 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."
Flores was under consideration for multiple head coaching jobs this hiring cycle before and after filing his suit. Flores interviewed with the New York Giants, Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints. The Giants' job went to Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, while Houston and New Orleans promoted their in-house defensive coordinators, Lovie Smith and Dennis Allen, respectively.
Flores, who is Black, was let go last month by the Dolphins after leading Miami to a 24-25 record over three campaigns. The Fins went 9-8 in 2021, their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure.
Flores' attorneys, Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis, released a statement Saturday announcing that the lawsuit would proceed regardless of Flores being hired by the Steelers.
"We congratulate Coach Flores on his new position with the Steelers and thank Coach Tomlin and the organization for giving him this great opportunity," the statement read. "While Coach Flores is now focused on his new position, he will continue with his race discrimination class action so that real change can be made in the NFL."
The coach alleges in the suit that while he was with the Dolphins, team owner Stephen Ross told Flores he would pay him $100,000 for every loss during the coach's first season because he wanted the club to "tank" so it could get the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which was eventually used by the Cincinnati Bengals to select quarterback Joe Burrow.
The NFL is investigating Flores' allegations against Ross.
Flores also alleges that the Denver Broncos and Giants conducted "sham" interviews with him to fulfill the Rooney Rule when he interviewed for their head coaching positions in 2019 and 2022, respectively.
After Flores' lawsuit was filed, the league said it would defend itself against claims it called "without merit." The Dolphins, Broncos and Giants also denied Flores' allegations. The NFL recently hired a law firm that includes former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to defend it and its teams in the lawsuit.
The NFL amended the Rooney Rule, named after former Steelers owner and then-chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee Dan Rooney, in 2020 to stipulate teams must interview at least two minority candidates not associated with their own team for a head coaching vacancy. Also, one minority candidate has to be interviewed for coordinator positions as well as high-ranking positions in the front office, including the general manager role.
In Pittsburgh, Flores will join a defensive staff that is without Steelers assistant Keith Butler for the first time in 19 years; Butler retired this offseason after seven seasons as Tomlin's defensive coordinator. To replace Butler, the Steelers hired Teryl Austin, who had been Pittsburgh's senior defensive assistant (Flores' new role) and secondary coach from 2019 to 2021.
Flores will have the opportunity to coach a talent-laden defense in Pittsburgh, but one that, after ranking in the top 10 in yards and points allowed in recent years, fell to 24th and 20th, respectively, in 2021. Still, the Steelers defense boasts multiple All-Pros, like Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt at outside linebacker, and will be the strength of the team in 2022.
The ex-Dolphins coach will also work under Tomlin, who at one point this winter was the only Black head coach in the NFL after Flores and former Texans head coach David Culley were fired. Smith and Mike McDaniel, who is multi-racial, have since been hired by Houston and Miami, respectively, giving the NFL three Black head coaches and five minority head coaches.