The fact Matt Canada is returning as Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It fits with the team’s historical precedent. Canada has one year left on his contract through 2023 and in Pittsburgh, the Steelers make coaching changes when those deals expire, “parting ways” with them as opposed to outright firings.
But in a 1v1 with KDKA’s Bob Pompeani, Steelers’ Team President Art Rooney II was adamant Canada’s contract played no role in the team’s decision to retain him.
“No, I don’t think so,” Rooney told Pompeani when asked about Canada’s contract being a factor. “The evaluation was, ‘are we making progress here or not?’ And we saw enough progress there that we wanted to keep him.”
As Rooney told reporters earlier Thursday and as he repeated to Pompeani, the decision to retain Canada had everything to do with Pittsburgh’s progress and goal of maintaining continuity, not changing coordinators on QB Kenny Pickett. Pittsburgh went 7-2 after the bye week and bounced back from 2-6 and 3-7 starts to finish the year at 9-8, keeping Mike Tomlin’s non-losing season streak intact. Pittsburgh’s run game saw serious improvement while Pickett also made strides, leading back-to-back game-winning drives in Weeks 16 and 17 against the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens.
Despite Rooney’s comments, it’s hard to imagine his contract not playing some sort of role. Pittsburgh hasn’t fired a coordinator after a season since DC Tim Lewis was let go in 2003 due to philosophical differences between him and head coach Bill Cowher. Every other coordinator who has come and gone, Todd Haley, Randy Fichtner, and Keith Butler to name a few, have had their contracts not renewed. Special Teams Coordinator Al Everest was an exception but he was fired before the start of the 2012 season, not after. The team has occasionally fired positional coaches, OL Coach Jack Bicknell Jr. lasted just one disastrous season, but coordinators have been a different story.
Canada will use the 2023 season as a make-or-break year. If the Steelers make substantial progress, Canada will earn an extension. If not, the team will likely move on and find a different offensive coordinator. Most notably, the Steelers need to improve their points per game, 26th in 2022 at 18.1, while generating more explosive plays (30th over the last two years) and bettering its red zone offense, 23rd each of the previous two years. All points Rooney hit on earlier in the day.