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‘We’ve Got To Get Them In Those Open Spaces,’ Matt Canada Says On Underneath Throws

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has had a lack of splash plays this season, which led wide receiver Chase Claypool to speak out after Sunday’s game and offensive coordinator Matt Canada to address the issue during his press conference today. At his press conference, Canada also talked about the need for underneath routes to turn into chunk yardage and the importance of getting yards after the catch. Asked about a play where Diontae Johnson was able to take an underneath route and turn it upfield for a 14-yard play, Canada said the team is looking for more of that.

“Yeah. Because that was the first one, we connected on and got, I don’t think you’re going to be able to say we’re not. But yeah, we certainly want to do that with him, with Chase [Claypool]. Chase’s run after the last couple weeks especially has been really, really good. You’ve seen that. I think Pat [Freiermuth]’s run after has been really good. So, certainly. If we can’t get it down the field because the defense doesn’t allow it, then we obviously have to throw it underneath and you have to run for it. That’s where certainly schematics is—you’re right, we’ve got to get them in those open spaces,” Canada said via official transcript provided by the team.

Pittsburgh’s offense has been devoid of splash and explosiveness for much of the season, with their lone double-explosive play being a 45-yard pass to tight end Connor Heyward against Tampa Bay on a broken defensive play. It’s just not been an effective part of their offense thus far, as deep shots have turned into at best 50/50 balls that Pittsburgh usually doesn’t win. Wide receiver George Pickens has been the only consistent threat 20+ yards downfield, and a lot of that is due to his body control and ability to win on back-shoulder throws along the sideline.

When Pittsburgh throws short or intermediate routes, they usually are out-breaking routes toward the sidelines and receivers don’t have much, if any, room to turn upfield and pick up extra yardage. For an offense that has struggled so much going deep, you would think that more in-breaking routes and routes in space over the middle of the field would be their bread and butter, but that just hasn’t been the case. It’s one of the reasons why the Steelers have such a hard time moving the ball and their offense is among the worst in the NFL. When they throw long, it’s rare something good happens. When they throw short, they’re bottled up pretty quick. Couple that with a run game that hasn’t taken off, and you have the makings of a bad offense.

At some point, you’d like to think something will change and the offense will finally have a breakthrough. But it’s hard to be excited when you see so many of the same concepts and lack of success week after week. Obviously, there’s still 10 games left and there’s room for things to change. But right now, the play-calling and execution on offense is bad, and as a result, the Steelers aren’t a very good team.

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