It seemed to work, as the Steelers won and both Kenny Pickett and Diontae Johnson praised the arrangement, citing improved communication from the Steelers’ offensive coordinator to the entire offense.
But there are real reasons that Canada and many other offensive coordinators around football prefer to be in the booth. It lets the coordinator see the entire field and help the quarterback identify the personnel and sometimes even the shape of the defense. It’s easier to tell what is happening on each play, to inform the next play call.
But Canada wasn’t without a set of eyes in the booth. With the Steelers offensive coordinator on the sideline, offensive assistant Glenn Thomas was on the headset from the booth, communicating with the sideline.
“He sends it down to Coach Canada. He’ll let me know if there’s something urgent that I need to hear from the box,” Pickett said.
Thomas is the newest addition to the Steelers offensive coaching staff. He came up under former Steelers offensive coordinator and tight end Mike Mularkey with the Atlanta Falcons as an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach. Thomas then worked for Matt Rhule at Temple and Baylor before becoming the OC at UNLV and Arizona State.
His presence hasn’t caused a lot of headlines so far in his Steelers tenure. The offense has struggled through the first half of the season, and Thomas hasn’t seemed to be playing a big role in either its successes or failures, but with Canada moving to the sideline, he’s been given an important role going forward.
If Thomas can do a good job of it, the new arrangement could actually simplify communications. Canada can hear what he needs to hear about the next play call, while forwarding the info that his quarterback needs to Pickett. But it involves a lot of trust in the process. So far, so good.
“The communication was pretty smooth,” Pickett said.