Calling plays and scheming up ways for you players to try and win snap-to-snap is a rush for Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator Matt Canada, regardless of if that rush is occurring in the preseason or the regular season.
Canada, who took over for Randy Fichtner in early 2021, has put his stamp on the Steelers’ offense in just a short time. A longtime college football offensive coordinator, Canada has incorporated a lot of pre-snap motion, quarterback under center running plays, and even some play-action, giving the Steelers’ stagnant offense a jumpstart.
Though it remains important to not read too far into the preseason action that we’ve seen from the Steelers’ offense through three games, or the action we’ll see Friday night in Charlotte, Canada said that the preseason action he’s seen gives him a chance see guys in game situations before the games truly count, which gives the coaches a bit of a leg up when it comes to evaluating the players and the construction of the roster.
“It’s a great opportunity to watch guys, you know, in a game situation, you know, with everybody out, watching them, the lights are on,” Canada said to reporters Wednesday in regards to preseason action. “I mean, it’s a different environment than a scrimmage you might have or something like that. So I’ve certainly enjoyed it, you know, for us every day, it’s just a work day. And I do appreciate that the way we handle it, the way coach sets it up. But it’s been a great experience to watch.”
So far, it’s certainly been fun this preseason to watch the Steelers’ offense with all its pre-snap motions to try and confuse the defense and make the coverage and calls much easier on the quarterbacks and offensive linemen in pass protection. Though we haven’t truly seen just what Canada and the Steelers have up their sleeves, the offense we have seen so far has been a breath of fresh air compared to years past.
How the offense looks Friday night against the Carolina Panthers will be interesting to watch, considering many offensive players will sit out, while plenty of younger guys fighting for roster spots will see a ton of action.
While some coaches may view the final preseason game as a throw-away, in terms of preparation and being very bland and vanilla with their calls, Canada said he sees it as a real opportunity to hone his craft, in terms of preparation and play calling, adding that the final week isn’t any more challenging for coaches than a normal week during the season would be.
“We’ve done that kind of the whole way through,” Canada said. “You have that with injuries. Obviously, we come in, we know who we’re planning on playing, and things happen. Some guys get nicked up or whatever all the time. So, you just coach the guys you’re gonna play with and you accept the challenge. I wouldn’t say it’s any more challenging, it’s just where we are at the time.”
That challenge this week for Canada is getting the most out of quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs, who will see the entirety of the work at quarterback for the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph sitting out. Haskins has certainly turned heads during training camp and the preseason. Now, he has one final test to pass for the Steelers in landing a 53-man roster spot, capping off a summer in which he’s been praised for his work ethic and commitment to detail, praise which also came from Canada Wednesday.
“I’ve liked how he’s worked every day and I’ve said it. I’ll continue to say that,” Canada said. “He comes into work; he’s trying to learn. The way he’s trying to watch our system, watch what we do, I’ve been really happy with that. I think he’s making quick decisions. He’s improved. Camp’s a fun time. You have a good day; you have an average day. I think every day he’s moved the right direction for the most part, and I’ve enjoyed his steady progression. I think Sully [Mike Sullivan]’s done a good job of bringing him along. Again, you come to a new system, you have to learn it all, and he’s hit that from the ground floor with what we did and just progressed in a good way. So, we’re excited to see he and Josh [Dobbs] go and see how they perform out there with a few more reps than they’ve got.”