It’s not just the one side of the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers that is adjusting to a new offense. The defense is learning how to play against Matt Canada’s wrinkles, as well. But for guys who are fresher from the college ranks, perhaps, what they’re seeing might be a bit more familiar.
As a first-year offensive coordinator who spent decades honing his craft at the college level, Canada garnered a reputation for having a keen and creative offensive mind, to the point where NFL teams consulted with him during his year out of football in 2019 before being hired by Pittsburgh.
He now gets the biggest break of his career to manage the offense of one of the premiere teams in the league, an offense full of talent at the skill positions, and with a future Hall of Fame quarterback whom he hopes to show still has more than a little something left in the tank.
“It just goes back to discipline. Having that discipline and knowing your assignment, knowing who you’re working with, that’s the biggest part about it”, rookie linebacker Buddy Johnson said of what it takes to play against an offense with a lot of motions and shifts, coming from Texas A&M.
“When you know what guys around you are doing, you get all these shifts and motions, you know who you’re talking to, so the biggest part about it is communication, just knowing what’s going on and where you need to be, when you need to be there”, he added.
Johnson is competing for the top backup inside linebacker role for the Steelers this season, as a rookie fourth-round pick. Devin Bush and Robert Spillane are the starters, but after Vince Williams’ retirement, it left the group pretty wide open behind them.
For the time being, he is running back Ulysees Gilbert III and Marcus Allen, but that could very well change over the course of training camp and the preseason based on what he can show his coaches. And adapting to play against modern offenses would be a good start.
“For me, I feel like I came from, we used to see a lot of that back in Texas, a lot of jets, a lot of motions. It’s something that I’m kind of used to, so I know how to snap my head, get my eyes around when I need to”, he said regarding his own experiences in the SEC.
When you’re playing Steelers vs Steelers, though, it’s hard to know how to read the results. Did the defense win because the offense is bad? Did the offense win because the defense is bad? We won’t learn more until we get more reps inside of stadiums against other colors.