PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers fired their offensive coordinator on Tuesday, sending the fanbase that has been begging for such a move into a frenzy over the possibilities for the remainder of the 2023 season.
The reaction from the Steelers offensive players was somewhat different. To them, the firing of Canada is a challenge.
“It’s a challenge to everybody,” Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett said. “You have to take it personally. It’s a guy you’ve worked with since I got drafted here. You want to play great. You don’t want to see anyone get let go like that. So absolutely. We have to answer the bell, find out what we need to do to play better and just go take care of business.”
Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan will take over the jobs of offensive coordinator and play-caller the rest of the way, but Pickett said not to expect big changes in the way the team goes about its business, particularly this week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“You can’t have wholesale changes at this point,” Pickett said. “We’re going to run the system that we’ve been using. Coach Sully and Coach Faulk, they’re going to put their wrinkle on what they want to run and when they want to run it.”
But head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that he is optimistic that the change will bring about an improved offense. He also acknowledged that he’s never done this before.
“There are a lot of challenges, obviously doing what it is that we’re doing,” he said. “But the unknown component is a potential positive. …. My first time. And so, you know, we’ll see.”
So if the offense isn’t going to change that much, why is Tomlin optimistic about the change? Pickett said the players need to use the move as an opportunity to take ownership of the offense and produce more, regardless of who is calling the plays.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to come together,” he said. “Road test. Division game against a great opponent. It’s a great opportunity for us to stick together and find a way to get a good road win. …
“I don’t think you really have time to talk about it. You have another game coming up. We found out on Tuesday. We have practice today. A bunch of meeting time. You talk about it for about 15 minutes and then you get right back to work and figure out how we’re going to win a game this week. That’s what everyone is focused on.”
That’s not to say that the team’s focus hasn’t been there throughout the season, but it’s clear that the situation with Canada had been at least a partial source of the frustration voiced by players such as George Pickens, Diontae Johnson and Najee Harris over the course of the season.
Now, with the source of some of that negativity removed, the Steelers players will have to prove that it was Canada holding them back, and not the other way around.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to go out there and make plays,” Pickett said. “You’ve got to do what you’re trained to do, do what we’re trained to do, and execute at a high level, which we’re not doing. Everyone’s putting everything into this thing. We’ve just got to go out there and execute like we can.”
FULL COVERAGE of the Steelers Firing of Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada