The Pittsburgh Steelers made the biggest in-season change in team history on Tuesday, firing offensive coordinator Matt Canada, which is believed to be the first time the team fired a coordinator mid-season in club history. The move came on the heels of an abysmal offensive performance in the team’s 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, and amid the continued lack of development of former first-round draft pick, quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Firing Canada made sense for the Steelers in an obvious big-picture way. Things weren’t working with Canada leading Pickett and the offense, and there was no way to separate the evaluation of the two.
Was Canada holding back Pickett? Was Pickett unable to execute Canada’s scheme?
Impossible to truly say. But the team has a whole lot invested in Pickett’s success and practically none in Canada’s, so making the move the way they did makes sense.
In Canada’s place, running backs coach Eddie Faulkner and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan will share the duties of offensive coordinator, with Sullivan reportedly calling plays while Faulkner holds the title.
If it works, and if Pickett looks better under Faulkner and Sullivan, well then the Steelers guessed right, Canada was the problem, and all is well in Black and Gold land.
But if it doesn’t work, and Pickett doesn’t look appreciably better going forward the rest of the season, it really doesn’t tell us much about what the Steelers have in Pickett.
Yes, he failed to develop under Canada. But Sullivan was the quarterbacks coach that entire time. He was part and parcel of the unit that was supposed to be developing Pickett, anyway.
Sullivan has been an NFL offensive coordinator before. The last time he called plays for an NFL team, he finished 31st in scoring with Eli Manning at quarterback. Manning is a borderline Hall of Famer. If Sullivan couldn’t do it with that guy, it’s not necessarily an indictment of Pickett if it doesn’t succeed now.
Furthermore, Faulkner is a Canada disciple. The Steelers were their third coaching stop together. His principles are unlikely to be wildly different than that of his predecessor. As a running backs coach, he should probably be expected to emphasize the run more, and that might help the team, but he should probably not be expected to have all the answers for developing Kenny Pickett.
Mike Tomlin had an algebra problem. He knew that KP plus MC equalled a negative number. By substituting one of those variables, he might solve the problem. If KP plus EFMS is positive, great.
But if it’s still negative, we still won’t know if Pickett is the problem, or if he’ll still be held down by an ineffective scheme and unproven coaches.