When the Steelers hired Matt Canada as their new quarterbacks coach in January, I wasn’t expecting the amount of hype his arrival would garner. From day one of his tenure in Pittsburgh to right now, I’ve seen articles from many sources predicting Canada’s impact on the Steelers, nearly all of which have been positive. His hiring would not only help Pittsburgh’s backup quarterback scenario, many articles said, but his well-documented schematic brilliance would add some new wrinkles to the Steelers’ rather dull offense.
From the start I found it hard to believe that a newly-hired quarterbacks coach with a good-not-great college record could be as big of a deal as many were making him out to be. So naturally as a writer, I started formulating ideas for an article stating my point of view. A few catchy headlines came to mind and I sat down to begin writing. Should we pump the brakes on Matt Canada?, Is Matt Canada the most overhyped offseason addition?, Tempering the expectations for the Steelers’ new quarterback coach.
I started doing some research on Canada for my article, as even though I had learned a lot about him in some other pieces, I wanted to find out more. I looked into his college coaching record — he had bounced around schools somewhat unceremoniously throughout his career — but besides some rumors that he was hard to work with, it looked as if some jobs might’ve just not worked out. Some former players and coaches had come to his defense as well. Besides, the Steelers have dealt with some serious drama and clashing personalities in the past few years, which means that they know what bad character looks like, and how to deal with one.
I came to the conclusion that Pittsburgh wouldn’t have hired Canada if they had serious concerns about his character. And even if issues do emerge, the Steelers have experience dealing with personalities far more worrisome than a worst case scenario Matt Canada. Quite simply, any perceived issues concerning Matt Canada as a person shouldn’t develop into anything detrimental for the Steelers.
Matt Canada’s supposed character concerns weren’t the main reason why I wasn’t on the hype train yet, they were just something I wanted to look into. Matt Canada as a football coach, however, was where I was not as optimistic as my fellow Steelers fans. How was a newly-hired quarterbacks coach with no NFL experience being treated like the second offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh?
I was actually excited about Canada as a quarterbacks coach. He had coached up some good quarterbacks in college and would no doubt be a valuable addition in that area for the Steelers, but all of the talk of him becoming a major contributor elsewhere on the offense seemed a little far-fetched. He was simply a positional coach, a newcomer as well, and besides, Randy Fichtner (and Ben Roethlisberger to a certain extent) was still running the offense.
But then I remembered Teryl Austin.
Brought on as a secondary coach and defensive assistant last year, Austin wasn’t as heralded of an addition as Canada was, but became one of the key pieces in Pittsburgh’s 2019 defensive revolution. He took it upon himself to help the team’s secondary create more turnovers, a statistic they had struggled in mightily the year before. He required defensive backs to use the JUGS machine daily in practice, something that hadn’t been mandatory before. With some more guidance from Austin and the rest of the coaching staff, the Steelers’ 2019 secondary became a force to be reckoned with, jumping from 28th to 2nd in the league in interceptions from 2018 to 2019.
Despite the narrative that the Steelers coaching staff is against trying anything new, 2019 proved that the team valued Austin’s new insights and incorporated them into their defense, with fantastic results. The hope is that Matt Canada can have a similar effect on the Steelers offense. Originally, I had believed that most of the Matt Canada hype was an offseason story being overinflated by fans, but as more press conferences came out of the Steelers’ coaches and players talking about incorporating Canada’s schemes into the offense, it finally hit that it wasn’t just the fans — the team was excited for Matt Canada as well.
Regarding Canada’s football mind, there isn’t much to say, he’s simply a brilliant football coach. Here on BTSC there have been multiple “film-room” articles from writers Geoffrey Benedict and K.T. Smith regarding Canada that are definitely worth the read (you can read two here and here). Canada has creative play design, can work with different personnel and schemes, and has even had some of his ideas used by Andy Reid of the Chiefs - you know, the team that won the Super Bowl last season.
Success in the modern NFL has often come through incorporating different motions and formations into offenses, which we saw a lot of from the Chiefs and 49ers in 2019. Matt Canada’s skill set is exactly that, and his specialty in working with different types of players and personnel should help the Steelers use athletes like Jaylen Samuels, Eric Ebron, and Derek Watt to the utmost of their abilities.
The return of Ben Roethlisberger and the addition of Matt Canada could definitely make the Steelers offense a fun one to watch again, and add a new dimension to what we’re used to seeing. Matt Canada is a valuable asset to the coaching staff, and it looks as if the Steelers are eager to implement his ideas into their offense. Even though the expectations have been set very high for an assistant coach, there’s every reason to expect Canada to deliver in 2020.
And you can trust that I believe that. Seriously, I had started on an article stating why we shouldn’t be so excited about Canada — and ended up writing this.