The Steelers’ offense has taken a beating throughout the season. As they struggled and more drama popped up, Matt Canada moved to the sideline. Former All-Pro defensive back Richard Sherman said earlier this week that Canada should be ‘fired immediately‘, and in the past, analysts have called the offense rudimentary and outdated.
But when a former player under Canada’s system says it, that perks ears up. Former Steelers tight end Jace Sternberger joined the Locked on Packers podcast on Friday to discuss the differences between the Packers’ and Steelers’ systems. He said it was a night and day difference, and he believes that Canada mainly lives in the Stone Age.
“When I got there, the playbook, the details, it was night and day,” Sternberger said. “The details on the assignment were nothing. It was literally like five yards, you’re running a stick. I’m taking school tests every week [on the playbook]. It’s not little answers where Matt Canada, it’s like, oh I have a five-yard slant or I have a corner route. Green Bay, it’s, hey I have a five-yard slant, if it’s press, I have to give time to let the inside guy run his fade. You have to give three or four coaching points every assignment.”
That’s not an endorsement of Canada. Even though his system is simple and thrives off running the same things out of different looks, the team fails to have the minutiae down to a point where it works in different situations, which is why the team’s details are so lacking at times. Sternberger makes that point.
To Canada’s credit, the team has started to play better offensively due to better play calling, but the execution and miscommunication remain. These details are largely why, and despite the Packers being far more complex, Sternberger believes that the Steelers offense is harder to learn because there is simply no rhyme or reason as to why they run things against certain looks.
“Going to Pittsburgh, it was actually harder to learn. I’m like, ‘Why are we doing this? Like, what’s the reasoning behind this,” Sternberger questioned. “The teachings, they were nothing.”
After his move to the sideline, Glenn Thomas took over Canada’s role in the booth. That earned rave reviews, as Canada’s communication on the sideline improved the offense, and the team enjoyed that. But the details are where Sternberger believes it never made sense.
“The details were night and day,” Sternberger said. “I can’t even say night and day. It was night and you want go back ten years in the past. Every team runs the same concepts, but just different verbiage and styles. I’m referring to the drawings, how they were installed. They had an assistant draw with a Sharpie and a pen and go to the coffee room on break time and print copies. The details on the assignment were nothing. It was like, ‘It’s five yards, you’re running a stick’.
The fact that they fell so short on the details is why the execution struggles as much as it does weekly. So, it caps the ceiling on the offense with Canada as its architect. This is not some analyst just spraying about hot takes, it’s legitimate criticism of the installation process and the concepts. On any play, you need notes against certain looks for what you must do to execute at a high level. Pittsburgh has plenty of talent on offense, but their details fail the talent.
Somehow, Pittsburgh will have to power through the rest of the season. But for a fact, they do install those specific languages and intricacies on defense. Mike Tomlin needs to find someone on the other side of the football that does the same thing or make Canada adapt to putting those details into the playbook.