While there’s never a comfort in moving on from a franchise quarterback, the Pittsburgh Steelers—and perhaps more so their fans—are optimistic about the directions in which they can take the offense in the aftermath of Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement.
As good as he was, for as long as he played, the Steelers were somewhat limited in what they would run on offense with Roethlisberger under center—or rather, out of the shotgun. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada introduced or accentuated certain concepts, but it was far from his complete vision.
With a new quarterback under center and new weapons, including second-round pick George Pickens, everybody seems to think that we will see the group look different this year. That includes Pickens himself, who talked to Missi Matthews for the team’s website about a number of topics, including the offense amidst the transition from Roethlisberger to the next era.
“I think it’s making it into like a modern type of offense, a modern type of game style”, he told Matthews, “with the new quarterbacks coming in such as Kenny [Pickett], you’ve got [Mitch] Trubisky, you got a few other guys, too. Ben brought, I wouldn’t say an old-school, but a different style of play to the Steelers”.
Pickens was obviously not here to play with Roethlisberger, but like everybody else, he’s had a television. He’s surely watched Steelers games. And he’s obviously talked to the coaches, including head coach Mike Tomlin and Canada, who will have explained to him their intentions.
“That was different type of play style, but now I feel like it’s an RPO, play-action pass” style of offense, he said of what he expects to see on the field when he is lining up with Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and company. “Everything’s gonna be a lot faster, for sure”.
Pickens and fellow rookie wide receiver Calvin Austin III will help them pick up that pace, as both players timed fast, and will add a greater level of explosiveness to the offense. The former is, of course, coming back from a torn ACL, so his top speed in September should be even better than what he timed at his Pro Day recently, which he said was the first time since the injury that he ran without a brace.
The ‘Canada offense’, though, remains a projection until we actually see it. No matter how he may have been limited last season with the cards he was dealt, his offense did not perform well in 2021, and that ultimately reflects on him. A good offensive coordinator figures out how to work with what he’s got.
This offseason, the Steelers have tried to get what works with Canada’s offense, so we should hopefully get a better sense of exactly what this is all supposed to look like. And if it actually works on the field as well as on paper.