How different will the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense be this year, in the absence of Ben Roethlisberger? Well, it depends on what sense. In terms of terminology, it may be radically different, something that we have already talked about.
Most veterans of the offense who have spoken to reporters this offseason have gone out of their way to talk about how offensive coordinator Matt Canada has changed the terminology from last season—which Canada acknowledges that he kept intact last season in deference to Roethlisberger and his 18 years of experience. But what about visual differences? Will we see significant differences on the field?
“I mean, yeah, it could” look noticeably different, Canada told reporters at minicamp yesterday. “Obviously, we all want the results to be different. It’s a results-based business, and I’m in charge of the offense. It’s gonna look, hopefully, good enough to win as many games as we possibly can and score as many points as we can score”.
This isn’t radically different from his approach last season, of course, at least in terms of how he answers reporters’ questions. He stressed at every opportunity that his focus would be on matchups and putting the offense on the field every week that gave them the best chance of beating that particular opponent.
Yet the offense didn’t look very different from week to week. How much of that was on Canada and how much on Roethlisberger? As the offensive coordinator, of course, it ultimately falls on Canada’s head, but how much of his game-planning and play-calling was shaped by his quarterback?
“Last year, we worked really hard, and Ben and I had a good relationship”, he said. “We kept the passing game, not because it was mandated or anything else, but he played for 18 years. There’s things that Ben could do that nobody else on the planet could do. So we kept those things that he did well, and we did the best we could to win as many games as we could”.
They won nine games, if you’ll recall, going 9-7 with Roethlisberger as the quarterback of record. It was enough to get them into the postseason, where they were promptly embarrassed with a first-round exit. How can Canada change his offense to better position itself to win.
“I don’t want to set something out to how it’s gonna look. It’s gonna look whatever we think week to week we can do to win”, he said. “We obviously want to have an offensive system; we obviously want to have production in certain areas. But the bottom line is we have to score more points. We’ve got to win more games. Whatever we have to do, however it looks to do that, that’s our charge”.
We have gotten hints piecemeal over the course of the offseason about how the offense might look different this year, but we won’t know for certain until we actually get into the action. Obviously, quarterback mobility will be a fundamentally different element than one the Steelers have had in years with Roethlisberger in the late stages of his career, but beyond that, it remains to be seen.