With Brian Flores hiring, Pittsburgh Steelers again come down on right side of NFL history

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired Brian Flores to be a defensive assistant coach.
  • Flores was fired in January as the Miami Dolphins head coach.
  • Flores then filed a lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams for racial discrimination.
Brian Flores

Over the past half century, the Pittsburgh Steelers have enjoyed many triumphant moments on the football field.

During that time, the Pennsylvania franchise has produced a mountain of wins, numerous Pro Football Hall of Fame players and, oh yeah, six Super Bowl championships.

It’s a pretty impressive record.

Over the past two decades, however, the Steelers have compiled an even more impressive record off the field in one very important category — the hiring of minority coaches.

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Now, if only the rest of the National Football League would follow Pittsburgh’s lead.

The NFL, to be blunt, has an abysmal record when it comes to hiring Black head coaches.

At one point this offseason, in a league where 70% of the players are Black, the NFL had exactly one Black head coach.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stands on the sideline during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)

Tomlin a success story: That coach, you guessed it, leads the Steelers. His name is Mike Tomlin and since he was hired in 2007, he’s produced one winning season after another, not to mention nine playoff runs, seven division titles, three AFC title-game appearances, two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl title.

Over his 15 years leading the Steelers, he has an overall record of 154-85-2. During his tenure, the Steelers have never had a losing season.

You would think Tomlin’s success would convince other NFL team owners that Black men are more than capable of being head coaches.

Sadly, it has not.

Hiring Flores: So last weekend, Tomlin and the Steelers elected to hire a man who has become an NFL outcast — Brian Flores — as a defensive assistant coach.

For those of you who haven’t been following the Flores story, he is suing the NFL after he was fired as the Miami Dolphins head coach in January.

Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the league and three teams earlier this month alleging racist hiring practices. The Steelers elected to hire Flores despite the fact that he has no plans to drop the litigation.

More:Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin makes a statement with Brian Flores hire

It was a bold decision by Pittsburgh, but also the right one.

Flores is a good coach. He produced winning records during his final two years with the Dolphins, which by most accounts, was a serious case of overachievement considering the low talent level on that team.

Flores clearly deserves another chance and the Steelers rightly gave him one. Now the Steelers can also benefit from his defensive expertise.

Tomlin earlier hired another Black man (Teryl Austin) to be the team’s new defensive coordinator.

More:'It was humiliating': Black NFL coaches lament hiring policies that fall short

Pittsburgh’s decision to hire Flores may not go down well with many NFL owners. There may be some backlash for hiring a man who is suing the league.

Still, the Steelers stood up and did the right thing.

That is not uncommon.

Strong track record: Pittsburgh, after all, is where the Rooney Rule originated in 2003. It’s an NFL policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. The rule is named after Dan Rooney, the former Steelers owner and the former chairman of the league's diversity committee.

Unfortunately, many teams haven’t taken the rule seriously, giving token interviews to minority candidates when they’ve already decided to hire a white candidate. That is, partly, why Flores filed his lawsuit.

Since the turn of the century, the Steelers have consistently proven to be on the right side of history when it comes to minority hiring. The team’s track record speaks for itself, and in the process, made us Pennsylvania proud.

Now we just need the other 31 NFL teams to follow suit.