While the Pittsburgh Steelers have introduced many changes in personnel from the 2020 season to this year, one can make an argument that the change at offensive coordinator at least has the potential to be the most significant of all.
Following three seasons with Randy Fichtner as offensive coordinator, the Steelers promoted quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to that role. His offense is clearly going through some significant growing pains through two games, as are his players individually, but head coach Mike Tomlin is pleased overall with the work that he has gotten from him, and in his communication with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
He told reporters yesterday during his pre-game press conference that the two are “very much so” on the same page. “The communication has been really good. I like the growth, the direction of that growth. They’re 1-1 like I’m 1-1. We’re all 1-1, if that’s what you’re asking in terms of evaluation of where we are. We’re a 1-1 football team”.
A very seasoned offensive coordinator and playcaller at the college level, Canada got his first job in the NFL just last year when the Steelers hired him to replace Fichtner as quarterbacks coach. Fichtner served a dual role for the previous two seasons.
Many felt even at that time that Canada might eventually become the Steelers’ next offensive coordinator, and both the players and coaches last season were not shy about discussing his influence on the offense—even if much of it didn’t seem to work very effectively.
It is true that the offense has struggled so far this year, particularly in the running game, but it is difficult to work out the assignation of blame. We are seeing a new scheme using new verbiage carried out by new and young players. There are a lot of moving parts with a high potential for volatility.
We have seen some promising signs for what Canada’s offense could look like. They used pre-snap motion effectively, for example, on JuJu Smith-Schuster’s rushing touchdown this past weekend. They have increased the usage of play action, though the results haven’t yet been there.
While Roethlisberger was very close to Fichtner, there haven’t been any significant indications that he has any issues working with Canada. In fact, he has been highly complimentary of his new offensive coordinator at times, and even talked about being excited about the challenge of learning and executing his offense.