There is arguably no partnership more integral to the success or failure of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2021 season than the relationship that exists between starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his new offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, who joined the team as quarterbacks coach a year ago.
While Roethlisberger has had several different offensive coordinators, which is natural for somebody with a career spanning nearly two decades, this may be the move that comes most from the ‘outside’, other than of course the six-year tenure of Todd Haley from 2012 through 2017.
Roethlisberger had only had three different quarterbacks coaches before last season, beginning with Mark Whipple, then Ken Anderson, and finally a long tenure with Randy Fichtner spanning a decade, Canada is someone with whom he had some familiarity from his time with Pitt.
They would have necessarily built a working relationship last season, and in actuality, Roethlisberger on a number of occasions, even in the offseason, would volunteer praise for Canada in the role that he was playing, as well as his influence on the offense. That hopefully bodes well for the transition underway, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN thinks so.
“I think that he built up a pretty good relationship with Matt Canada last year where they’re comfortable with each other, so I think because of that, you could find a sweet spot”, he said on a recent appearance on 93.7 The Fan. “Ben’s smart enough to know you can’t just keep dropping back, no-huddle, five wide all the time, and just hope for the best. There’s some things that have to change”.
“I think that’s probably what these meetings have been about between him and the team, is define sweet spots with those kinds of discussions”, he said, referring to meetings referenced by the team that took place before they began actually renegotiating his contract.
“I think you’ll find a mix, but it’s gonna start with getting the best out of what’s gonna be a younger offensive line”, Fowler added, noting the inevitable changeover at likely multiple spots. “If they can move some people a little bit and actually run the ball again, that’s gonna open up everything else”.
This is all a fair bit of change for a quarterback in the twilight of his career, but then again, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have shown that even greater change can be weathered and transformed into the ultimate success, each of them making history after switching teams at the ends of their careers—becoming the only two quarterbacks to ever win a Super Bowl as a starter with multiple teams.
Roethlisberger isn’t dealing with that level of change, but he will inevitably asked to do things at least somewhat differently this year. it’s incumbent upon him to be receptive to whatever changes are proposed to him and for him to be open and honest about whether or not he can execute it.