Matt Canada is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ new OC. But don’t expect to see him standing on the sidelines next to Ben Roethlisberger this season. In a Thursday Q&A session with reporters, Roethlisberger said Canada will call plays from the booth, not on the field.
Roethlisberger made the comment in passing in talking about the “newness” of the Steelers’ offense being the reason why he’s playing this preseason.
“We’ve got a new system,” Roethlisberger said via the team website. “There’s a new coach-to-player communication in terms of a new guy. The offense is different. He’s up in the box compared to on the field. There’s a lot of newness.”
For many years, the Steelers’ playcaller has been on the field. Randy Fichtner was for his entire tenure as Steelers’ OC. Todd Haley spent most of his career on the sidelines despite Roethlisberger’s reported preference that Haley go to the booth. Bruce Arians stood on the sidelines too.
The last Steelers’ OC to call plays from the booth on a full-time basis was Ken Whisenhunt, who did so in his tenure with the Steelers, including a Super Bowl run in 2005. So it seems Roethlisberger will begin and end his career getting the calls from a coach upstairs.
Like anything, there’s pros and cons to booth versus field. The booth offers a better vantage point of coverages and substitutions and is a little bit away from the chaos that is standing on a sideline full of people with 66,000+ fans cheering at your back. The downside is that it removes the playcaller from directly interacting with Roethlisberger during the game and perhaps creating a middle-man between Roethlisberger and Canada. Perhaps that middle man will be assistant Blaine Stewart, who TV crews have mistaken for Canada this preseason.
Canada being in the booth obviously isn’t a top-line story. It won’t define this offense, positive or negative. But it’s another part of the newness of this offense that Roethlisberger will have to adjust to. How well he adjusts to everything, from the different style of playcalling to the plays themselves, will be what defines his group and this season.