Even though Matt Canada represents a new face from outside the organization on a technical level, he is in many ways a familiar one for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hired yesterday to be the team’s new quarterbacks coach after spending decades in the collegiate ranks, primarily as dual quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, he will be taking over the post from Randy Fichtner, allowing him to focus on coordinating the offense.
Likely, however, Canada will have deeper inputs, and the reality is that many will already be familiar with him from his time as the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the 2016 season. In fact, he was James Conner’s offensive coordinator that year.
And he was Jaylen Samuels’ offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015 as well. And then he was the offensive coordinator and interim head coach of Derwin Gray, an offensive lineman on the practice squad, in 2018. That is his most recent posting.
This follows a pattern from other hires. Tom Bradley worked for a long time at Penn State, and is the brother of the team’s physician. Teryl Austin is a Pittsburgh native who worked with Bradley at Penn State. Karl Dunbar coached under Mike Tomlin while he was defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. Eddie Faulkner was Samuels’ position coach.
And so the Steelers’ coaching staff is now filled with outside voices that are nevertheless familiar to them, Canada being the latest. He has two players on the roster who can vouch for him as a coach, and much of the roster will have been comfortable with him as they shared facilities for the 2016 season.
He is also, however, making the transition from college to the pros, as did Bradley and Faulkner—and even Fichtner way back in 2007 when he was a part of Tomlin’s original coaching staff. While Canada spent 2019 out of football in a formal coaching capacity, he wasn’t absent, either. He reportedly was sought to advise offenses for other programs, including NFL teams.
Canada is the first new voice in the quarterback room, at least nominally, in a decade. Fichtner has held the post of quarterbacks coach since 2010. Offensive assistant Matt Symmes stepped in to assume a significant role in the instruction of the quarterbacks last season as well.
While he has never coaches at the professional level before, Canada’s experience in instructing the quarterback position goes back to 1997 when he served as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for Butler. He was the quarterbacks coach for Northern Illinois from 2001 to 2003, then for Indiana from 2004 through 2010 before returning to NIU for one year. After one year in Wisconsin, he spent three at NC State, two with Samuels, then Pittsburgh, and LSU.
The 2018 season with Maryland was his first season not coaching quarterbacks since 2000. From 1998 through that year, he served as running backs coach for Northern Illinois before being moved to quarterbacks coach. In most stops along the way, he also served as offensive coordinator.