Ben Roethlisberger has been in the NFL for 18 seasons now. Through it all, he has had quite a lot of continuity. There had only really been one major departure prior to this season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in terms of the style of offense run, and that was in 2012 when they dismissed Bruce Arians as offensive coordinator and brought in Todd Haley from the outside.
He was resistant to the change at the time, not just because he was very close with Arians on a personal level, but he also rejected the imposition of running a new system, since he believed the offense they were running was fine. He likened the process to reading the Rosetta Stone, trying to learn a new vocabulary.
Matt Canada is the second major departure Roethlisberger has had to deal with in his career for the offense, as the new offensive coordinator is installing his own plays with his own vernacular, but he hasn’t been complaining about it. In fact, JuJu Smith-Schuster sees him embracing and engaging with it.
“He’s always asking questions 24/7. He’s always asking questions, not [just] for myself, but also for himself, too”, he told reporters earlier today. “A guy who’s been in the league for 18 years, who’s obviously been asking questions—for me, I’ve been in the offense for four years, so it was like, ‘damn, this is tough for me’. But for him, 17 years, and then for him it’s like, ‘I have to learn a whole new offense’, it’s way tougher for him. For myself, I know I have a lot of questions, but he also is asking questions, too”.
The wide receiver believes Roethlisberger’s curiosity about the process is a demonstration of his active participation and willingness in the installation process. The quarterback himself has talked about how important it is for him to be with his teammates at this time of year for the installation process.
Perhaps one thing that helps is that Roethlisberger has already gone through this process before with the Haley offense, and he understood in the long run how that led to valuable changes, alterations that he has adopted and embraced over the years, such as emphasizing a more quick-release, timing-based offense that relies more on brains than brawn.
He understands that Canada will also incorporate new ideas into the offense that will be beneficial, not only to himself, but to the team as a whole. And it helps that he is already familiar with both the man and some of his ideas, as he was the team’s quarterbacks coach last year.
The change at offensive coordinator could very well be the most significant decision the Steelers have made this offseason. Can they iron out some of the wrinkles that they have had on offense over the past several years? That is the plan, and Roethlisberger is trying to learn everything he can about it.