Matt Canada is no stranger to running an offense. He’s been an offensive coordinator for several years in the college game at Indiana, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, NC State, Pittsburgh, LSU, and Maryland. But 2021 will be his first year as an NFL OC. And Diontae Johnson shared some insight as to how a Canada-led offense will differ from Randy Fichtner’s.
“Pretty sure he’s going to open the offense up.,” he said in a 1v1 interview with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews. “I’m sure we’re still going to run the same offense. But we’ll have some different things in there.”
Canada’s offense is expected to have a bit more of a college feel. He’s often credited for the clear uptick in pre-snap motion Pittsburgh used this past season, especially during the first half of the season. And there were moments where it worked with great success like Ray-Ray McCloud’s 58 yard windback play.
Sunday, I saw the Steelers offense evolve schematically for the first time in forever. Pre-snap motion and window dressing that truly was effective, taking Ray-Ray McCloud's 58 yard run straight from Kyle Shanahan.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) October 12, 2020
Perhaps Canada’s biggest charge is getting the offense off to faster starts. As we’ve mentioned many times in articles and on the podcast, the Steelers have had the league’s worst opening script the past two seasons. They’ve found the end zone just once on their opening possession, by far the lowest mark in football.
But all good coaches need good players. With Ben Roethlisberger’s return cemented, Johnson believes the offense will be among the NFL’s best.
“I’m sure we’re going to have a great offense with Ben coming back to. I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready to go to work with Coach Canada.”
Johnson himself will look to build on a sometimes turbulent sophomore season. While he made real progress as a route runner and his production was sound, he led the NFL in drops. His role in the offense will be even more important if Pittsburgh loses JuJu Smith-Schuster to free agency.
Johnson finished out by talking about his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger. Johnson recently praised him for helping to teach him the game and how to become a more nuanced receiver.
“He is always helping me,” he said in a recent Steelers.com article. “If he wants me to do a certain thing on a route, he will give me some pointers”.
He echoed those thoughts in his interview with Matthews.
“I take advantage of every opportunity I get out there with Ben. I’m looking forward to it this year as well.”