Dolphins host Steelers in Brian Flores’ return to Miami

The Dolphins fired Flores, who is Black, in January after three seasons.

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Brian Flores hasn’t spoken much about the Miami Dolphins since joining the Pittsburgh Steelers in February.

But when he has, he’s insisted on leaving the past in the past.

That might be difficult this weekend. Sunday night’s game between the Steelers and Dolphins marks Flores’ return to South Florida for the first time since he filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams shortly after the Dolphins fired him.

Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant Brian Flores works with the defense as they go through drills during practice at NFL football training camp in Latrobe, Pa., on Aug. 8, 2022. Flores will make his return to South Florida Sunday night, Oct. 23, 2022, when the Steelers face the Miami Dolphins. Flores was fired by the Dolphins in January and later filed a lawsuit against the NFL, the Dolphins and two other teams. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

It’ll also be the first game quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will start since suffering a concussion on Sept. 29 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I think it’ll be cool being able to go up against the guys that he’s coaching on that side,” Tagovailoa said. “I know he knows personnel really well from being here with us. But I think we’re all excited to go up against their defense.”

The Dolphins fired Flores, who is Black, in January after three seasons despite a 24-25 record and a stunning turnaround in 2021 in which Miami won eight of its final nine games after losing seven straight.

Three weeks later, Flores sued the NFL, the Dolphins, the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos over what he alleged were racist hiring practices, saying the NFL was “rife with racism.”

The Steelers hired Flores less than a month later as a senior defensive assistant working with linebackers.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin and Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel downplayed the idea of Flores’ familiarity with the Dolphins — and Tagovailoa — being an advantage for the Steelers.

“In the coaching professions, we all feel it’s overblown, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said. “It’s not about what coaches know. It’s about what coaches can convey to players and it’s about what players can recall in an instant in the moment before a ball snaps.”

McDaniel said the game is about the players on the field.

College style football on a yard line of a football field under stadium lights. (Adobe Stock)

“Defenses have tried various things against our offense with Tua at the helm,” McDaniel said, “and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t see a consistent theme.”

Tomlin added that Flores, often described as having an austere, soldier-like presence, is a “great communicator,” something that has been echoed by some of Pittsburgh’s linebackers.

“You want answers, you get direct answers,” said linebacker Devin Bush. “You don’t really get all the fluff.”

Many Steelers players have said it’s like having another head coach on staff.

“Flo is a man that understands football with the best in the world and he presents it in a way that it’s an open discussion,” linebacker Rob Spillane said. “We talk about plays. We learn from each other in the position room. We are able to speak our minds and tell him how we feel about certain things. I love being able to work with a guy like that. Not all coaches are like that.”

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