The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely mark a major transitional phase within their offense in the near future whenever they part ways with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whether that is of his own accord or otherwise. This season, however, also marks a more minor transition in the promotion of Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, arguably their most radical move on offense in some time.
Canada served as quarterbacks coach last year. But all of his experience prior to that point came in the college ranks. He earned a certain reputation for his offensive mind through a number of stops along the way. Enough so that he earned consultation jobs from NFL teams. Now, he’s an integral part of the Steelers’ draft process for the first time.
“We had an understanding of what he likes to see in a quarterback, and he got an understanding of what the NFL is like,” general manager Kevin Colbert said of Canada’s first season with the team a year ago. “So moving into the coordinator position, we’re still doing that same type of thing.
“We’re learning about what Matt’s preferences are for players, and he’s also learning about the process on our end as to how to go about it and looking at it from a coordinator’s perspective,” he added. “It’s always an ongoing evaluation process, albeit in different roles for Matt this year than in previous years, but we’re always growing and learning from each other on a daily basis.”
The Steelers have had precisely three offensive coordinators under head coach Mike Tomlin since 2007. It started with Bruce Arians, who they promoted from quarterbacks coach at that time. Randy Fichtner was hired to the staff at that time as well as wide receivers coach, ultimately transitioning to quarterbacks coach.
Arians lasted four years as coordinator before the team decided it was time to move on to protect Roethlisberger from himself. Pittsburgh brought in Todd Haley from the outside in 2012. He served the valuable function of reshaping the quarterback’s game and helping to better protect himself.
Haley lasted six years, but Pittsburgh did not renew his contract. Fichtner took over in 2018. While he had a successful first season, the past two years have been, largely, anything but. He continued his role as quarterbacks coach through the first two years, but they hired Canada last year.
They did so in a manner that really felt like it was just a stepping stone. Almost immediately, players began talking about Canada’s impact. The coaches acknowledged that his role would be something a bit more, that he would be installing and expanding concepts such as pre-snap motion.
Now he will be running the show and will be able to fully implement his ideas. And this will be his first crack at really selecting his own personnel. They did draft one of his players last year in Anthony McFarland, who played under him at Maryland in 2018. Expect him to get a new running back and perhaps an offensive lineman or two by the end of Day 2.