Matt Canada doesn’t sit at the head of the table in the offensive meeting room but he gets a vote. Given what he’s done in college, consider him a fan of pre-snap motion and playaction, two elements sorely missing from the Steelers’ offense. Speaking to reporters via Zoom call Tuesday, Canada was asked if he’ll try to bring those aspects to Pittsburgh.
“It’s kind of a double edged question,” Canada said in his conference call. “Certainly for Ben. I’m coming in and learning our system and learning what we’ve done here and, that’s my job to just enhance whatever I can. Obviously play action is a big part of things we’ve done in the past, but we’re going to certainly focus on what Ben does well, what he’s always done well. However I can assist that, I’ll do it.”
No team has ignored playaction as much as the Steelers have in recent years. According to this chart from Football Outsiders, the Steelers have ranked dead last in playaction usage four years running. And when they do use it, it’s ineffective.
Here's a #Steelers table of play-action the last five years. This kind of consistency is wacky — and it's consistency against the general trend of using more play-action and being successful with it. pic.twitter.com/0zv6m3pZnV
— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) May 8, 2020
As Ben Roethlisberger has gotten older, his amount of work under center has decreased and playaction has plummeted along with it. Still, teams can sell playaction out of shotgun, most teams work out of shotgun the majority of the time, so that alone can’t be a sufficient excuse.
Pre-snap motion usage isn’t quite as bad, ranking somewhere in the middle league wide, but still wasn’t used enough to support a struggling offense last season.
If you’ve watched a Canada coached team over the years, his college offenses thrived on motion, misdirection, and playaction. As he said in the interview, his goal is to work to the strengths of his current personnel, that’s what any good coach does, but his goal is to also maximize their ability. Ideally, he’ll increase the team’s usage in both areas. More playaction and motion would be especially helpful should the team have to turn to their backups again.