To the dismay of many fans, the Pittsburgh Steelers opted to keep Matt Canada as the team’s offensive coordinator for 2023. Canada’s tenure, while featuring a late-season surge in 2022, has left a lot to be desired. Indeed, the team ranked 20th or worse in both scoring and total yardage in Canada’s two seasons as the offensive coordinator.
On a Wedndsay article on the offseason questions for each team, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus cited his concern with the team’s decision to keep Canada as the team’s top offseason question, questioning whether the team can change the offensive dynamic without a coaching change.
“Quarterback Kenny Pickett showed plenty of promise as a rookie,” Monson said. “As did wide receiver George Pickens. Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris are three talented young players already in situ, but the entire offense was a little too toothless as a sum of the parts.”
Toothless is not an inaccurate way to describe the Steelers’ 2022 offense. While the team went on a 7-2 run to close the season, their defense was largely responsible, as they only allowed over 17 points once in the span. This isn’t to say that the team’s offense was completely uninspiring, as they established a commitment to the run game and saw an improvement in the play of rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. That said, as Monson highlights, the team’s offense often did not utilize the full potential of their talented core.
“Pittsburgh elected not to make coaching changes this offseason,” Monson continued. “So the team now needs to figure out how to unlock that group’s full potential under last year’s staff. This is a group that should be a problem for anybody to defend, but too often it wasn’t.”
On paper, the young offensive core of Freiermuth, Harris, Johnson, and Pickens is indeed a solid core of skills players that all showed promise. However, despite showing flashes, it is reasonable to expect a stronger passing game from this core, even considering Pickett’s rookie growing pains.
The Steelers’ offensive dynamic, as Monson puts it, is often predictable and complacent. The team struggled with opening drives, pushing the ball down the field, and circulated through a small assortment of plays. Now, not all of this is on the play calling of Canada, as poor execution and youth also certainly contributed to the less-than-desirable offensive production. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to question just how much the team’s offensive dynamic will be able to change and utilize the talent of their young skills players considering Canada’s stint so far.
As articulated by the team’s owner Art Rooney II, the Steelers’ reasoning for keeping Canada was based on the second half offensive performance and him working well with Pickett. Granted, the team’s offense came to life to a certain extent in the second half of 2022, and consistency in coaching certainly won’t hurt Pickett’s development. However, as things stand, it’s hard to get excited for the team’s offense in 2023.