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Steelers Turn to Unique Arrangement at Offensive Coordinator



Steelers QB coach Mike Sullivan
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan at practice on Nov. 22, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — There are 32 teams in the National Football League, and when those clubs take the field this week, for 31 of them, either the head coach or the offensive coordinator will be the one in the ear of the quarterback, calling the offensive plays. The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying something different.

After the firing of offensive coordinator Matt Canada on Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has installed a one-of-a-kind share of his former workload.

Eddie Faulkner will be the team’s offensive coordinator, but when Kenny Pickett gets under center against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, it will be quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan calling the plays into his earpiece.

Tomlin explained the unusual arrangement by comparing the equally unusual step of the Steelers firing a coordinator midseason — it’s the first time they’ve done since the 1940s — to losing a star player to injury.

“We’ve still got to coach running backs, we still got to coach quarterbacks,” Tomlin said on Tuesday. “The strength of the pack is the pack. And when you’re faced with challenges, I just think the natural and appropriate thing, is you distribute responsibility. It’s like when you lose a player like Cam Heyward. It’s not one guy that replaces Cam Heyward. It’s a committee of guys.”

On Thursday, Faulkner described how he anticipates the breakdown of labor going.

“He and I are going to work real hard to be in lockstep with each other,” Faulkner said. “I know on game day, any play caller wants to narrowly focused on what he needs to do and I’m not going to interfere with that. But at the same time, we’re going to have enough conversations to tee ourselves up as well as we can so that when we go into that game atmosphere, we’re all on the same page. …

“Day-to-day, I’m organizing everything. We’ve having the meetings. I’m running the meetings. I think Coach (Tomlin) mapped it out. Everything that a coordinator would do, that’s what I’ve been entrusted to do, outside of pushing the button to talk to Kenny’s helmet.”

There was much made about Canada’s physical location while calling plays. Faulkner confirmed that both he and Sullivan will be on the sideline. It’s assumed that offensive assistant Glenn Thomas will still be in the booth, providing input from there, as he has been since Canada moved to the sideline a few weeks ago.

“I’ll be right there close to Sully,” Faulkner said. “He’s going to want to be locked into the game and seeing what he’s seeing, dialing the plays up. I don’t want to interfere with that. I wouldn’t want that to be the case for me. We’ll be right there next to each other and we’ll have conversations in between series to map a plan forward for that next series.”

The Steelers’ set-up will certainly be unique. But with the team entering play in Week 12 at 28th in the league in scoring and 30th in yards, they aren’t exactly risking a lot by trying something new.

FULL COVERAGE of the Steelers Firing of Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada

🏈 Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan, the two internal candidates to replace Matt Canada, are currently the betting favorites. That makes sense, because five of the last six Steelers offensive coordinator hires have come from within the organization.

🏈 The Steelers will not be making “wholesale changes” to their offense, so what reasons are there for optimism that the unit will perform better after the firing of Matt Canada?

🏈 Pittsburgh players were surprised by the firing of Matt Canada, but hopeful that it can bring about big changes in the outcomes for the offense.

🏈 Sights & Sounds: First look at new offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner running practice on Wednesday.

🏈 News & Links: National reaction to the firing of Matt Canada. Is the pressure on Kenny Pickett now?

🏈 Mike Tomlin said the decision to fire offensive coordinator Matt Canada was “mine and mine alone.”

🏈 Steelers Afternoon Drive: The Steelers fired Matt Canada. Now what?

🏈 The change at offensive coordinator might not tell us much that we already don’t know about quarterback Kenny Pickett. That is, unless it works, and his play improves this season.

🏈 Why did things go wrong between the Steelers and offensive coordinator, and what mistakes made along the way could have been avoided?

 🏈 Mike Tomlin explained why now was the time to fire Matt Canada: “This is a result-oriented business. And to be short, the improvements were not rapid enough or consistent enough for us to proceed.”

 🏈 Mike Tomlin said the Steelers did not consider bringing in someone from outside the organization to replace Matt Canada as offensive coordinator.

 🏈 Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner will be the offensive coordinator and Mike Sullivan will call plays after the Steelers’ firing of offensiver coordinator Matt Canada.

 🏈 After two and a half seasons, no 400-yard games, and no growth from Kenny Pickett, the Pittsburgh Steelers have finally fired offensive coordiantor Matt Canada.