Whether merited or not, Matt Canada’s hiring has been one of the most talked-about moves that the Pittsburgh Steelers made this offseason, and not even for the role that he was nominally hired to fill, which is as the quarterbacks coach. Instead, everyone seems to be intrigued by the dimensions that they believe he can bring to the team outside of the purview of his role as position coach.
Canada is in his first season coaching at the NFL level, but he has an extensive background as both quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, and even as interim head coach as recently as 2018 when he was with Maryland, the team drafting a couple of players that he coached while there.
In his nominal role, he is taking over for Randy Fichtner, who had been the team’s quarterbacks coach since 2010, but had wielded dual responsibilities as offensive coordinator since 2018. Following a season in which novice quarterbacks had to take center stage due to Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, the team decided it was best to split those responsibilities again.
But while Canada is coming in as the quarterbacks coach, it is already apparent that his expected influence extends beyond simply the position that he coaches. A number of players and coaches have already commented on or hinted or alluded to that. Mason Rudolph, his prime pupil, discussed his new quarterbacks coach over the weekend as well.
“I think when you have so many come from the college level, kind of like myself and Devlin did a couple of years ago, they understand a lot of the differences of the game”, he said of Canada. “He understands that now. Not only with the stuff he’s helping us on the field with drill work or just another set of eyes, having another person there to drill us, work us through practice”.
“I think it’s going to be a big advantage when we’re preparing for games this year, when you’ve got another seasoned football mind in there to collectively think and game plan”, he added. “Obviously with Randy leading that boat, but, to have him there to supplement. He’s got a lot of good thoughts and he’s done a lot of good things with the offenses he ran in college, and he’s just got a good football IQ”.
Players like James Conner and rookie Anthony McFarland have already played under Canada and have spoken positively about their time under his coaching, as well as about who is his as a person. The Steelers seem intent on making use of his background as an offensive coordinator. How that will actually manifest—outside of incorporating more pre-snap motion—we’ll perhaps have to wait and see.