How long did it take for people to start questioning the mental faculties of Matt Canada, the Steelers’ first-year offensive coordinator?
Nine games? That’s actually not too bad.
You see, the Steelers have had offensive coordinators since social media became a thing way back in the late-’00s, and the fans have hated every single one of them. I think the last OC the fans didn’t hate was Ken Whisenhunt. However, not only was that before social media but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger supposedly hated Whisenhunt. Why? Roethlisberger was a true Pittsburgher by then.
Anyway, of all the criticisms of the Steelers performance following their 16-16 tie against the winless Lions at Heinz Field last Sunday afternoon, perhaps the most potent criticism has been focused on Canada’s game plan, a game plan that saw him dial up 50 passes for quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was filling in for the COVID compromised Roethlisberger. As for the menu of rushing plays? It only included 31 carries—27, if you take away Rudolph’s four scampers off of designed pass plays.
Considering Pittsburgh gained 109 on those 27 designed running plays—including 105 yards on 26 carries by rookie running back Najee Harris—and considering Sunday’s game went a full five quarters, it seems that Canada’s focus was a bit off in terms of balance. That’s especially the case when you throw in the reality that Detroit came into Sunday’s game with one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL.
Also, there was the emergency start by the backup quarterback who had to do his thing in very wet and cold conditions at Heinz Field.
But I’m not necessarily judging Canada for his game plan. I’m sure he had his reasons—the Lions’ six-man front was reportedly one of them. I’m just saying that life comes at you fast when you’re an offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers—as does the hate.
Let’s be honest, it was only a matter of time before Canada accumulated his share of critics. The Steelers haven’t reached the 30-point mark once in 2021, and they’re currently averaging 19.7 points per game, which is only good enough for 26th in the NFL. Also, they’ve failed to score 20 points in five of their nine games.
You might say, “Well, what about the 39-year old quarterback and all the rookie contributors on offense?”
There’s no room for reason when you’re an offensive coordinator. Think about it, this is the same fanbase that quickly turned on Randy Fichtner back in 2019 for averaging just 18.1 points per game with Rudolph and Devlin “Quack Quack” Hodges as his quarterbacks for 14.5 weeks.
Do I think that Canada is an idiot? No. Am I saying he’s intentionally devising game plans that will not work? Of course not; to quote the late head coach and legendary soundbite, John McKay, “It’s not like we draw up a play and then say, ‘Now this will not work.’” But other people are starting to say these things about Canada.
I don’t know how long Canada will remain as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, and I don’t know how successful he will ultimately become in the role, but I do know that folks will continue to be critical of his game plans and playcalling for as long as he’s here.
They’ll do the same to the next person who holds the position.
It’s just the nature of the role. I believe there’s a support group Canada can get in touch with either before or after he leaves Pittsburgh.
That group even includes a Super Bowl-winning head coach. The members in it will understand what Matt Canada is going through.
They’ll also be there to comfort the next Steelers’ offensive coordinator.