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Steelers Analysis

What Went Wrong for the Steelers and Matt Canada? Everything.



Steelers OC Matt Canada
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada before a game against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 12, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Steelers have officially fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada, with a mix of quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan and running back Eddie Faulkner taking over the role. It’s a move that probably should have happened this past offseason when Pittsburgh fell short throughout the 2022 season with Canada at the helm, but better late than never, as the adage always says.

It is so late that the changes will not be as wide-sweeping as they may have wanted, but the move had to happen. There was a bubbling under the surface that something in this offense was amiss. No one would outright say it in the locker room, but Pittsburgh’s remarkable streak of winning close games ended on Sunday, and that boiled over. Whether you point to George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, or especially Najee Harris, it was clear the offensive players had had mainly enough. They realized that there was not much else they could do at some point, and Harris illustrated that when he said he had no clue what the answers were to the issues.

Steelers OC Matt Canada

Steelers OC Matt Canada watches on during pregame warmups against the Titans, Nov. 2, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“Yeah, in some situations, to be honest with you,” Harris said when asked if defenses knew the Steelers plays before they happened. “Do they know what plays are coming, this team? I don’t know yet. But I mean, there have been some in the past. I just don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m just stuck in this situation where I just don’t have an answer to it. All I can do is just ride this little wave.”

The Steelers had little to come back with for answers to their problems. That is where Canada’s firing had to happen. Players were caught off guard by the defense’s game plan multiple times, and Canada never made the necessary adjustments to assuage those concerns. For example, the Browns ran a ton of zone coverage when they ran mostly man coverage throughout the year, which caught Pickett and the offense by surprise. But the offense had no answers and was running man-beaters for much of the game.

The biggest indictment on Canada was the finer details of the game. Pittsburgh’s consistent miscommunication up front and between quarterback and receiver, the mistiming of screens consistently, and a lack of general intricate nuances that good offense needs to work. There was no rhythm to the offense, and all the intricate details in the passing game that matter, it’s up to the coordinator to install those in the offseason. Matt Canada never did that. It’s more telling than anything else.

Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett throws against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 19, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Now, is Sullivan and Faulkner going to be better? I am skeptical of that. But one thing remains true: Pittsburgh can not sit by while the locker room devolves into further frustration, and nothing changes. This went beyond a meeting to fix something. Instead, it had to call for someone to be removed from the process. The choices were between Pickett and Canada. But the team wants to see what their young quarterback can at least do without Canada in the room.

Canada fell short as an offensive coordinator. His route concepts make little sense and do not build off the team’s run game. He does not give his quarterback adequate answers to every coverage and look. Moreover, the utilization of specific personnel falls short. Canada has put the training wheels on Pickett in the last two weeks after his struggles, but you have to wonder if they are the correct set of wheels but realistically speaking, when the quarterback is struggling as bad as Pickett is right now, the idea that the quarterbacks’ coach will change things drastically as the offensive coordinator does seem a bit odd.

Steelers OC Matt Canada

Steelers OC Matt Canada at practice on Oct. 27, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

No drastic changes are coming. The scheme will be the same; it’s too late to make a substantial change. Pittsburgh made their bed and must lie in it or try to claw their way out. But the more significant thing is that the Steelers needed to do this to get a look at Pickett without Canada there. Maybe something in that weekly workflow can make a different outcome for Pickett, but you have to be pessimistic based on what Canada has done this year.

Canada wasn’t the only problem, but he was a huge one. And it’s a step in the right direction toward getting an offense with talent back on track. Now, they will have to see what they have at quarterback, which will be their next big decision. Tying Canada to the ship for the entire season made little sense.

It’s the fundamental execution of passing the football that fell short consistently. The accuracy from the quarterback, communication, and all of the nuances that this point should work out are not. That falls on coaching for not coordinating this group, and the finer details are lacking every week in that facet of the game—something had to change.