The Pittsburgh Steelers are not the sort of organization that likes to make a lot of changes, believing strongly in the power of stability, provided that you have the right people on staff. Still, sometimes change is inevitable, and this year, we’ve seen the addition of two new members of the coaching staff.
While Ike Hilliard was brought in to be the new wide receivers coach, the bulk of the attention has been given to Matt Canada, whose official title is merely quarterbacks coach, yet many expect him to play a greater role than that behind the scenes.
A veteran of the college ranks as both a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, Canada comes to the Steelers having worked with a number of players already on the roster, including James Conner, who had him as his offensive coordinator during his 2016 season at Pitt.
The running back spoke to reporters in recent days through a teleconference, and fielded a number of questions, at one point being asked by Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about his experiences with Canada and what he might bring to the Steelers. Transcribed below is his answer.
He’s a football man, but I think the way he’ll help us the most is his presence, and I honestly believe that, because playing for him in 2016, every day, you got the energy that he brought, the passion that he brought, it’s really contagious. He just spoke so much positivity to us, so much confidence into us. He’s a winner himself. I’m super excited to have him on staff, and I know with his guidance and his mind coming in, Coach T always says we don’t care where good ideas come from, and he has a lot of good ideas, so it’s going to be our job to execute. But I know that, as a coach, he’s gonna give us everything he has.
Conner isn’t the only one in the running backs room who has played under Canada. Derek Watt, the team’s new fullback, worked under him several years ago during his time at Wisconsin. More recently, rookie Anthony McFarland has lavished praise on his former head coach in 2018 during his one-year stint at Maryland.
The reason that the Steelers hired him is because the 2019 season made it obvious that they needed a dedicated quarterbacks coach. Between 2018 and 2019, Randy Fichtner filled the dual role of quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, the latter having been a new role to him at this level.
And it just so happened that he would need to get 14 and a half games’ worth of snaps out of two quarterbacks who never threw a pass at the NFL level. In just his second year as offensive coordinator, he was also asked to nurture an inexperienced starter while training a rookie undrafted free agent backup. Yes, Matt Symmes worked with the quarterbacks, but clearly it wasn’t enough.