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Around the AFC North: Brian Flores Strengthens Steelers Coaching Staff

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is seen during an NFL football game against the Houston Texans on Sunday, November 7, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Hiring of Brian Flores Continues Pittsburgh's Defensive Makeover

Brian Flores will coach in the NFL next season, but in a different role than anticipated.

The Miami Dolphins' former head coach has joined Mike Tomlin's staff in Pittsburgh as a senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach, the Steelers announced Saturday. It was been an eventful offseason for Flores, who was unexpectedly fired by the Dolphins after they finished 9-8 and won eight of their last nine games. He is suing the NFL, alleging discriminatory hiring practices toward Black candidates, but Flores will continue his coaching career working with one of the league's most successful coaches in Tomlin.

"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," Tomlin said in a statement released by the Steelers. "Brian's resume speaks for itself, and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team."

The addition of Flores continues an offseason makeover for Pittsburgh's defensive staff. Teryl Austin, a former defensive assistant with the Ravens (2011-13), is the new defensive coordinator replacing Keith Butler, who retired after the season. Pittsburgh finished last in the NFL against the run in 2021 and ranked 25th in overall defense, so the changes are not surprising.

Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Heyward believes Pittsburgh's decision to hire Flores during his ongoing dispute with the NFL sends the right message. The Rooney Rule, which was created to increase opportunities for minority coaches, was named after former Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who was chairman of the league's diversity committee. While the effectiveness of the Rooney Rule over time is being debated, Heyward said the Steelers have displayed fairness when it comes to hiring practices.

"I just think our organization looks at people who can help, no matter their skin color, where they come from," Heyward said via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "The Rooneys have a great track record. To have a rule named after you, and for it to be taken advantage of in past years, it's kind of sad. But the Rooneys are about giving people a fair shake and a fair opportunity, and I think coach Flores just wanted an opportunity. I think everybody looks at it as he can help our team rather than hurt our team."

Coming to Pittsburgh will reunite Flores with star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who did not always see eye to eye with Flores in Miami before he asked to be traded.

However, Tomlin moved quickly to add another experienced voice to his staff. Before leading the Dolphins, Flores was a defensive assistant for 11 seasons with the Patriots under Bill Belichick. Now Tomlin, Austin and Flores will work together and spend the offseason plotting defensive strategy to throw at the AFC North's talented quarterback trio of Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and Baker Mayfield.

Cincinnati Bengals: Zac Taylor Could Have Long Stay in Cincinnati

Zac Taylor has received a contract extension after going from the hot seat to the Super Bowl.

The Bengals announced last week that their head coach had been extended through the 2026 season. Taylor led the Bengals to their first AFC Championship since 1989, an impressive turnaround after their 6-25-1 record in his first two seasons.

Taylor could be the next coach in the division to have a long tenure, following in the footsteps of Tomlin and Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh. The Bengals' previous head coach, Marvin Lewis, spent 16 seasons in Cincinnati and owner Mike Brown has a history of showing loyalty to head coaches.

Taylor said his open line of communication with Brown is a major reason he loves coaching the Bengals.

"I think we all understood that we needed to start winning a lot more games than we were," Taylor said via Peter King of NBC’s ProFootballTalk. "But the beauty of working for Mike and the family here is you meet almost on a daily basis. There is no earth-shattering conversation that needs to be had after a season because you have that conversation every day in the offseason, training camp, during the season. We're always on the same page to where there's not these big State of the Union meetings that need to happen where there's been no communication for weeks or months. I wouldn't want to have it any other way."

Cleveland Browns: Will Jarvis Landry Still Be With Cleveland in 2022?

The future of wide receiver Jarvis Landry is a major offseason decision facing the Cleveland Browns.

Landry is under contract, but ESPN's Jake Trotter reported that Landry has a $16.6 million cap hit next season and the Browns would save significant money releasing him or trading him. The 29-year-old Landry is coming off his least-productive NFL season -- 52 catches for 570 yards and two touchdowns.

Landry posted a cryptic tweet on Twitter this weekend, although it wasn't clear if he was referring to his situation with the Browns.

Former Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. found greener pastures after being released in November, joining the Rams and helping them win a Super Bowl. Browns General Manager Andrew Berry spoke highly of Landry at his postseason press conference, but did not commit to Landry returning next season.

"I think everybody on this call knows how much respect that we have for Jarvis Landry and really what he's meant for our team and organization over the past several years," Berry said via Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon-Journal. "He's been a productive player for us since the day that we traded for him and he's been really a key piece in how the team and organization have evolved over the last several years."

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