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.