The Steelers 2019 offense was a chore to watch. Whether it was Ben Roethlisberger’s injury or the questionable schematics, the offense struggled mightily in all facets. Even with the clear problem being Roethlisberger’s absence, the schematic part of the offense did no favors to the players either. Change was going to be necessary in some fashion.
That change is new quarterbacks coach Matt Canada. An offensive guru that is known for his mastering and excessive use of pre-snap motion, Canada has found success around college football, including at the University of Pittsburgh. It was clear that Canada would serve at least one purpose. That purpose would be to coach up a group of young quarterbacks, thus freeing up Randy Fichtner of some duties. Coming into the season, it seems Canada is embracing that role.
“Anybody that is in my room, I am going to coach and try to prepare to play. That is my job,” Canada said.
With Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, and Paxton Lynch all still looking to make strides, Canada will have the job of helping them make those strides. The Steelers view Rudolph as a potential heir to the throne of Roethlisberger. Canada, in particular, was especially excited about having so much starting experience in the room, and thus having a plethora of tape to review.
However, where Canada’s impact will be felt is his influence on the actual offense. For context, it is better to think of Canada’s influence has a supplement to the offense rather than being the actual coordinator. He is offering up concepts and marrying them with Fichtner’s scheme. Still, through these press conferences, it has but been confirmed that Canada is having an effect on the offense. Most notably, that is through pre-snap motion.
“It’s throwing the ball if we have to; it’s run the ball if we have to; it’s misdirection stuff. We brought Coach Canada in to help with some of that stuff,” Ben Roethlisberger remarked.
“I’m still learning all of the new motions and stuff, stuff he’s (Canada) brought over to us,” Diontae Johnson said.
So, it is clear that pre-snap motion will be a staple for the Steelers in 2020. The addition of more pre-snap into the Steelers offense is something that is long overdue. In 2019, the Steelers were middle of the pack in motion usage, falling below the league average by using motion only 29% of the time. With Canada now on board, that number will rise dramatically.
The importance of adding motion is that it shifts defenses pre-snap. With more defenses disguising their coverages and schemes more than ever, pre-snap motion can give an offense a key hint into what that defense might be scheming as they shift their front and secondary to account for the motion. At its simplest, it allows the quarterback to decipher man or zone coverage. Different types of motion will do different things, but it also gives a lot of eye candy for the defense, which can make them hesitate just a little bit. In the NFL, a second of hesitation can be the difference between a two-yard gain and a touchdown.
Thus, Canada’s addition of motion to the offense should only help a unit that added more talent to the squad. They will run similar plays out of wildly different looks and get that key cheat sheet into the defense. The best offenses in the NFL, including the Chiefs, 49ers, and Ravens, all use a high rate of pre-snap motion because it gives them that look into the defense. Canada’s unique use of motion will bring the Steelers a new modern feel that fans have not seen before in this offense. With all the weapons this team has, the schematics of pre-snap motion could help elevate this offense into a potential Top-10 unit.