Though nothing is set in stone, Mike Tomlin hinted at what will happen – or won’t happen – with his offensive and defensive coordinators this offseason. Based on what he said during his end-of-year Tuesday press conference, he suggested OC Matt Canada will return in 2022 while DC Keith Butler won’t be with the team next year.
Tomlin was first asked about Canada’s performance in his first year as a NFL offensive coordinator.
“I’m optimistic about Matt and what he’s capable of doing,” he said via the team’s YouTube channel. “I acknowledge we took a step back. There’s some obvious tangible reasons why that occurred. So I’m not going to get into all that. I’m not going to seek comfort in that. We got to be better. We intend to be. That’ll require a lot of planning and work. Players and coaches.”
Not an answer that will appease most Steelers’ fans, who are prepared to throw a parade over Canada’s dismissal.
Pittsburgh’s offense was frankly hard to watch for most of 2021, finishing 21st in points per game, down from 12th place a season ago. They were the worst first down offense in football, averaging just 4.1 yards per play, and scored nine points over their final nine first quarters, fewest in football.
It’s a question of separating playcalling, execution, and personnel to determine the root of the issue. To hear Tomlin tell it, with a vote of confidence for Canada, the issue falls more on the players than the coordinator. The Steelers began this season noting likely offensive growing pains given the newness of so many pieces, including an entirely rebuilt offensive line, and Tomlin seems prepared to give Canada at least another season to make it work.
Later asked a question about Canada and the offense, Tomlin noted all the new pieces.
“We went into this season understanding that we had new and often times new and young people that comprise significant components of that unit.”
Tomlin was then asked if Butler will return for another year as defensive coordinator.
“[Butler] has had conversations about this being potentially being his last year. He and I hadn’t had an opportunity to sit down. I’m doing players interviews, he’s doing player interviews. We haven’t had a detailed conversation in that regard.”
Butler’s retirement has been suggested and rumored for a few weeks now, and comes as little surprise. Butler signed a one-year contract before the 2021 season and nearing his late-60s while coming off a year in which the Steelers had a historically bad run defense, now seems like a logical time to move on.
While Butler’s replacement isn’t concretely known, it’s most likely to be assistant coach Teryl Austin. Austin has worked with the secondary and is in Tomlin’s ear on gameday, aiding him on things like challenges and other in-game decisions. Austin has experience as a DC with the Lions and Bengals, though his times there weren’t always successful.
Tomlin said he didn’t anticipate any other staff changes, but said he wouldn’t “be surprised” by any either. At minimum, the team will need to hire an offensive line coach after Adrian Klemm left for Oregon late in the season. Chris Morgan took over as interim head OL coach and could remain in that role, though it’s likely the team looks at outside candidates, too.