I’m going all Nick Saban on you to start this Friday.
Quit asking about the Pittsburgh Steelers having a pass game coordinator.
Not because the role doesn’t hold value. It’s a common title around the league. But Pittsburgh already has one. And his name is Matt Canada.
***Price Is Right Losing Horn***
It’s not what anyone wants to hear but for better or worse, that’s the reality. Canada holds the title of offensive coordinator, a position he’ll maintain in 2023, but he’s the de facto pass game coordinator. In Pittsburgh, the offensive line coach serves as the de facto run game coordinator while the offensive coordinator primarily handles the pass game. Both coaches have to work in concert and mesh their schemes and ideas together, it seems to be one reason why Adrian Klemm left the Steelers and return to college, but that’s the aspect of the offense they run.
It’s a structure that’s been in place for years. In 2020, Team President Art Rooney II admitted that’s how the role is divvied up. Pittsburgh just doesn’t use the title, a franchise that’s never been big on fancy titles and new-age labels.
And Ben Roethlisberger made a quip about Shaun Sarrett having big shoes to fill replacing Mike Munchak as the de facto gameplanner for the run game.
“Former assistant offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett’s challenge is to replace Munchak not just as the Steelers’ offensive line coach, but as their unofficial “run game coordinator,” a moniker Roethlisberger hung on Munchak last season.”
It’s reasonable to assume that structure remains in place today. Adding a pass game coordinator would just be redundant and wouldn’t serve a role.
To be clear, that doesn’t prevent the Steelers from adding some sort of “senior offensive assistant” to help gameplan and be another voice in the room. Pittsburgh could do that if they wanted to. But it’s hard to define what that role would be. Any name like that wouldn’t be working with a position group like Flores did, who coached the Steelers’ inside linebackers. Pittsburgh already has two quarterback coaches, two o-line coaches, and though they’ll need to replace assistant WRs Coach Blaine Stewart’s role, that won’t come in the form of a senior assistant. That’ll be a younger face that can assist WRs Coach Frisman Jackson and Special Teams Coordinator Danny Smith.
Like him or not, Canada even has his own hand-picked assistant in Matt Tomsho. He’s followed Canada around since 2016, working with him at Pitt in 2016, LSU in 2017, Maryland in 2018, and then joining the Steelers in 2021 once Canada was promoted from QBs Coach to OC.
So what would the hypothetical senior assistant do? The Steelers trusted Canada enough to bring him back so he’ll remain the playcaller. And QBs Coach Mike Sullivan works closest with Pickett on a daily basis so the benefit of adding someone else seems thin. Obviously, Canada isn’t well-liked by the fanbase and having anyone else in that room instead is preferable but Pittsburgh’s made it clear they’re sticking with him for at least 2023. That’s the lens through which I write this.
Is it impossible Pittsburgh bring in an assistant? No. But it won’t be Eric Bieniemy, who many have clamored for. He’s about to become an OC somewhere, probably in Washington. If you want a name, Byron Leftwich makes the most amount of sense. Perhaps he could get a Senior Assistant/Assistant Head Coach title, just a year ago considered the favorite for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coaching gig before that fell through. He seems to be struggling to find a job, even recently turned away by Notre Dame for their vacant OC position. With his good relationship with Mike Tomlin, if there’s a name you want to point to, it’s probably Leftwich.
But the Steelers could just as easily enter 2023 with the offensive staff they have (aside from replacing Stewart) and they certainly don’t need to add a pass game coordinator. They already have one. It’s just a name fans don’t like.