The last post Matt Canada held as a professional football coach was at Maryland in 2018 before being hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this year. Two years ago, he served as interim head coach and offensive coordinator for his lone season there.
Three players currently with the team—Anthony McFarland, Derwin Gray, and practice squad safety Antoine Brooks—all played under him with the Terrapins that year, but Canada was also with James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, and Derek Watt, and also worked with running backs coach Eddie Faulkner at North Carolina State, before arriving in the professional league.
Now he’s preparing to face the Baltimore Ravens for the first time, Maryland’s team, and the local media had questions about this homecoming of sorts. Mike Tomlin told the Baltimore media of Canada that he often prefers bringing in college coaches for their fresh perspective.
“I just liked the different approaches [and] outside the box thinking”, he said. “I just thought he had a different eye, if you will, to our process. We take a collective approach to a gameplan formation and little trinkets and things of that nature. He just brings a different perspective”.
So far this season, Canada, who is the team’s quarterbacks coach, has had his biggest imprint in getting the offense to run more pre-snap motion and to utilize more jet sweeps with wide receivers to stretch the field and decrease predictability.
Zach Banner, who was the starting right tackle in the season opener but has been an observer since, after suffering a torn ACL, also offered his thoughts from what he has seen of one of the Steelers’ newest coaches (Ike Hilliard was also hired this year as wide receivers coach).
“His concepts are crazy, right? It’s a little bit of a different flow”, he said earlier this week on his show, via Josh Rowntree. “Especially when you see reverses by Chase (Claypool) and Diontae (Johnson) and things like that, and getting Ray-Ray (McCloud) the ball in a different way. Coach Canada is one of the exceptional minds”.
Claypool has already scored two rushing touchdowns this season, and clinched the season opener with a 4th-and-1 rushing conversion. Ray-Ray McCloud broke off a 58-yard run earlier this year. As Diontae Johnson gets back into the fold, we will surely see him getting touches as well.
“The man has a brilliant mind”, Banner continued. “Put that with somebody who is able to facilitate a game like Ben (Roethlisberger), it’s a tandem that’s just ridiculous. Especially when it’s paired up with the play calling” by offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
While there are still some kinks to work out in the offense, the Steelers nevertheless are averaging 30.5 points per game, which ranks sixth in the NFL. According to Pro Football Reference, their 183 points scored through six games this season is the most they have ever had to begin a season. The only other times they have hit even 170 points were in 2018 (171) and 1978 (170).