The Pittsburgh Steelers need to run the ball better in 2021. Under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, there will at least will be a greater focus on doing so. Speaking with reporters on Day One of training camp, Ben Roethlisberger said Canada’s offense is much more focused on running the ball.
“It’s not even close,” Roethlisberger said via the PPG’s Gerry Dulac. “If you notice, I’m looking at the wristband quite a bit. All the quarterbacks are. New isn’t always bad, it’s just new.”
According to Dulac’s report, Roethlisberger said the percentage of “run-game formations” is much higher under Canada than it was under OC Randy Fichtner. That tracks with Canada’s philosophy as an offensive coordinator in college and with the Steelers’ offseason moves. Everything from Art Rooney II’s mandate to improve the run game, leading to the selection of Najee Harris, and the many, many moves made to change and hopefully upgrade the offensive line.
At his previous stops, Canada’s teams have run the ball much more than they’ve thrown it. Here’s his offense’s run percentage since 2011.
2011 – Northern Illinois: 58.7%
2012 – Wisconsin: 68.2%
2013 – NC State: 54.4%
2014 – NC State: 56.7%
2015 – NC State: 56.4%
2016 – Pitt: 62.3%
2017 – LSU: 64.8%
2018 – Maryland: 66.4%
The lowest run percentage at any of those stops was 54.4%, 2013 with NC State. Four years did his offense run the ball 62%+ of the time, with his season-high occurring in 2012 with Wisconsin at 68.2%. Of course, the odds of the Steelers hitting those types of numbers are remote; few NFL teams do save for the most run-heavy offenses like Baltimore. Last year, the Steelers ran the ball just 36.2% of the time. Even boosting that number to 2017 levels, Le’Veon Bell’s final year actively playing for the Steelers, where they sat at 42.6% would mean a more balanced and most importantly, efficient Steelers’ offense.
As he said during spring workouts, Roethlisberger noted Canada is bringing a different style of offense in terms of philosophy and language. Adjusting is still a work in progress.
“We knew when Matt was coming in it would be a lot of new stuff. He told me about this. It’s a challenge, but I’m excited for the challenge. It’s a little tougher, but I’m going into it full speed ahead to be the best I can.”
Once the season starts, we’ll certainly track the Steelers’ run rates and that critical run success rate number. If Canada can have a positive impact on the ground game, the improvement should feel obvious. For as bad as this run game was a year ago, there’s really nowhere to go but up.