Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt finished with the NFL lead in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits, despite sitting out of Sunday’s Steelers regular-season finale in Cleveland.
Watt’s 15 sacks held up as the league leader, with Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams and Trey Hendrickson of the New Orleans Saints finishing in second place with 13.5. Arizona Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick and Green Bay linebacker Za’Darius Smith tied for fourth with 12.5 sacks. Watt’s sacks cost opponents a total of 112 yards this season, which is also the most among any defensive player.
In tackles for loss, Watt finished with 26, with Donald and Reddick well behind at 20 and Chicago’s Roquan Smith and Tampa Bay’s Devin White tied for fourth at 18.
Watt finished with 41 quarterback hits, well eclipsing second-place Carl Lawson of the Cincinnati Bengals, who had 32.
Watt, who was voted the Steelers’ team MVP for the second straight season, also had an interception, two forced fumbles and seven passes defended this season while racking up 53 tackles, and remains the odds-on favorite to become the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the first time in his career.
Watt’s 15 sacks left him one short of the franchise’s single-season record, set by James Harrison in 2008. He is tied in second place with Mike Merriweather, who had 15 in 1984.
Report: Steelers to Promote Matt Canada to Offensive Coordinator
The Steelers are expected to promote quarterback coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, according to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Randy Fichtner, who had held the job since 2018, was not retained as the team’s offensive coordinator the team announced, the team announced on Thursday.
The #Steelers are expected to promote QB coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. A creative mind originally from the college game, Canada also interviewed with the #Dolphins but now stays in Pittsburgh.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 16, 2021
Canada, 48, spent his first season in the NFL with the Steelers in 2020 as quarterbacks coach. He had also been a candidate to become offensive coordinator at Miami.
A native of New Palestine, Indiana, Canada has been a coordinator at multiple stop at the collegiate level. He was most recently Maryland’s offensive coordinator and interim head coach in 2018, guiding the Terrapins to 5-7 record after the firing of D.J. Durkin following the death of a player in an offseason workout.
Before that, Canada was a coordinator at LSU, Pitt, NC State, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Indiana and Butler.
At Pitt in 2016, Canada was a finalist for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach after leading the Panthers to a program record in points scored. He coached NFL quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett at NC State and Nate Peterman at Pitt.
Canada is the sixth offensive coordinator hired by the Steelers in the last 20 years and all but one of them have been internal promotions.
The Steelers will need to replace Canada as quarterbacks coach, as well as tight ends coach James Daniel, who retired, and offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett, who was not retained, on the offensive staff.
Report: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger Expected to Return for 2021
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return for the 2021 season, according to a report by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
Roethlisberger, 38, said after the season that he would take time to consult with his family and think about whether he wanted to return for an 18th NFL season.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week that the Steelers would welcome a return by Roethlisberger.
In 2020, Roethlisberger started all but one game for the Steelers, as he was rested in the regular season finale against Cleveland. In 15 regular season games, he threw for 3,803 yards while completing 65.6 percent of his passes, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Roethlisberger pushed the ball downfield less in 2020 than he has in the past, which his 6.3 yards per attempt the lowest full-season mark of his career. Pro Football Focus rated him as the 25th-most effective quarterback in the NFL this season and the worst of the four starters in the AFC North.
In Pittsburgh’s postseason loss to Cleveland, Roethlisberger set an NFL record for completions in a game while racking up four touchdowns and 501 passing yards, but also threw four interceptions.
His contract is a potential sticking point, as he is set to earn $19 million in salary in 2021 in addition to a $22 million deferred signing bonus from the last time he signed a contract that must be paid out, whether Roethlisberger plays or not.
Depending on the final salary cap figure, the Steelers could be as much as $40 million over the salary cap entering the 2021 offseason.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Hints at Free Agent Destinations During Twitch Session
This offseason was always going to lead to changes for the Pittsburgh Steelers, because thee contract situation for several key members of the roster was always going to make that the case.
The pandemic-fueled salary cap constraints made that worse and then the way the Steelers entered the off-season after an embarrassing loss in the AFC Wild Card Round to the Cleveland Browns will likely lead to even more changes and has put fans on edge, wondering where their beloved franchise is headed in the future.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the team’s 19 unrestricted free agents, and despite previously saying he wished to remain in Pittsburgh, the 24-year-old receiver opened up further speculation that he’s aware his free agency may lead him out of Pittsburgh while taking questions from fans during a live Twitch session on Friday night.
Users are able to wear different skins during Twitch sessions, and Smith-Schuster decided to have some fun by incorporating skins of the uniforms of the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints.
That comes just a few days after former the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that he could be looking to play in a bigger market in an effort to strengthen his personal brand, which was then quickly disputed by Smith-Schuster in a tweet.
With the possibility of the Steelers moving on from Smith-Schuster very likely, both because the team having so much to worry about contractually this offseason and the fact the front office has a proven track record of developing receivers, it’s possible the 2020 season ended a four-year career in Pittsburgh for the fun loving, often controversial young receiver.
If the 2020 season was Smith-Schuster’s last with the Steelers, he finished with 97 receptions and a career-high nine receiving touchdowns, but that only totaled 831 yards, mostly due to a career-low 8.6 yards per catch.