The Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to move on from Randy Fichtner as offensive coordinator this offseason was somewhat of a surprise, largely due to their tendency to resist change, but moving on to Matt Canada certainly provides us with an interesting opportunity to see how two seemingly opposing forces can join together.
As his career has gone on and he has aged, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has increasingly preferred to line up out of the shotgun, to minimally use play action, and to avoid much motion. While he hasn’t commanded an offense yet at the NFL level, many of the systems he ran at the college level run contrary to those tendencies.
Pro Football Focus recently said of the combination of Roethlisberger and Canada that “there might not be a more dissimilar quarterback-offensive coordinator pairing in NFL history”. Now, while I’m sure that’s not true—this isn’t exactly Chip Kelly or anything—it does emphasize the point that Canada’s offenses on his college resume aren’t typically what you would associate with Roethlisberger’s style of play at this point in his career.
“The next version of the Steelers’ offense could be completely different from any attack we’ve seen before”, the piece reads. “New offensive coordinator Matt Canada brings his unique spin, but how much of his offense we actually see will be dependent on Ben Roethlisberger?”.
Now, obviously there will need to be some compromise between what Canada would like to run and what Roethlisberger would like to run and is capable of running. But that is true of any coordinator-quarterback pairing. Any good coordinator will match his offense to his quarterback’s abilities and preferences. That’s just logical.
But obviously we’ve seen in recent years that something needs to change. As Roethlisberger admitted last week, he’s been running variations of the same offense for basically his entire career, even with the change to Todd Haley in 2012 that he bellyached about far more than he is about this one.
Arguably one of the most important differences between then and now is that he has a lot less leverage to say anything this time around. His status with the even was even vulnerable this offseason, and he wound up taking a $5 million pay cut.
The Steelers had the fourth-highest shotgun rate last season, PFF notes, while Canada’s 2018 offense in Maryland was well into the 100s in college football. Conversely, Pittsburgh ranked 23rd in pre-snap motion last season, while Canada’s Terrapin offense had the second-highest rate of pre-snap motion.
These are significant disparities between with the team must find a balance. No doubt, some will lean closer to one way and some to the other, but in the end, they must decide on what is best for the offense as a whole, and not just Canada or Roethlisberger.