One of the top storylines for Sunday Night Football should be the potential return of two quarterbacks from concussions, with Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett appearing to be on track to play and Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa already cleared from the protocol.
And yes, they are being talked about.
"Obviously very athletic," said Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer of Pickett. "He can drive the intermediate throws. He can get the ball down the field. He can definitely scramble to run or scramble to throw. He's making quick decisions for them. They do a pretty good job of putting in plays where he gets a quick read, and he can make those decisions. I think he's been productive for them.
"We're preparing for both guys (Pickett and Mitch Trubisky), which we would anyway, regardless of situation or injury circumstance, and both of them will present a challenge to us for sure."
But there is another topic that has been occupying conversation in both cities, and that is the return of Steelers senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach Brian Flores to Miami. Flores was the Dolphins head coach from 2019-21 and both sides are being asked about his knowledge of the Dolphins and how that can benefit the Steelers.
"It is a useful resource, but in the coaching profession we all feel it's overblown to be quite honest with you," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "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. And so oftentimes you can sit around the classroom and the coach can provide quality insight and the player can nod in agreement…yeah, I see that and understand that. But the minute they get on their feet and the bullets are about to start flying or a snap is imminent, those things become less relevant.
"So, I understand what you mean when you ask that. But we've got to put together a good plan. Our players have got to understand the plan. They've got to go out and execute the plan and very little of that has to do with where Coach Flores worked last year, his intimate knowledge of members of their football team etc. This is a small fraternity particularly at this level. Those storylines exist every week and that's just our mentality regarding them."
The Dolphins weighed in on the questions about Flores, and below is what they had to say.
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Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins on what it's going to be like with Flores on the other sideline:
"It's just business as usual. We're preparing to play the Steelers and obviously there's history there with 'Flo' and everything, but we're just preparing business as usual getting ready for the Steelers."
Safety Brandon Jones on playing against Flores:
"It's exciting, just to be able to see him in person. I haven't talked to him in a while, obviously, but I'm excited. I know that with the route that he's taken and being able to – I know he's been helping out their defense a lot from what I've seen. I like to watch film on a lot of other teams and stuff like that. But yeah, he's been helping them out a lot, and it'll be really cool to see him."
Coach Mike McDaniel on if he thinks the presence of Flores on the staff is a useful resource for the Steelers, regarding Tagovailoa in particular:
"From my vantage point, I don't really make a correlation necessarily with that. It is good to have familiarity with players in a sense of you know some of their strengths and weaknesses. But at the same time, I think that's an evolving process for Tua. And also, every defense is trying to defend the offense. Defenses have tried various things against our offense with Tua at the helm, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I don't see a consistent theme. I think this game is about the players on the field playing against each other more than anything."
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on Flores being on the other sideline:
"I think it'll be cool being able to go up against the guys that he's coaching on that side. 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. You hear a Pittsburgh Steelers defense, and you just think of hard-nosed. You think of a really tough defense. They're going to give us some good challenges in this game."
Tua on familiarity with Flores:
"I've been with him for the past two years. So, he definitely knows what I like and what I don't like. But then again, schematically, this is Mike (McDaniel)'s offense and this isn't the same offense that I've been running while he's been here the past two years."