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The learning curve for Matt Canada is real, but Mike Tomlin is open to changes down the stretch

The Pittsburgh Steelers have two regular season games left, and Mike Tomlin is leaving no stone left unturned when it comes to the play calling duties.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Minicamp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There are several players/coaches the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base would be glad to see leave after the 2021 regular season. We all know the list of names, but I believe most would agree Matt Canada is atop most, if not all, of those lists.

Canada came to be the Steelers’ offensive coordinator after one season as the team’s quarterbacks coach in 2020, but it wasn’t as if Canada was new to calling plays. Canada has been all over the map as teams’ play caller, but all in the college ranks. When you think about Canada’s transition from college to the professional ranks, there has to be a learning curve, right?

Mike Tomlin was asked about this during his Tuesday press conference, and here was his answer.

“I have no reservations about the play calling component of his job and what he’s done, but I also will acknowledge there’s probably a learning curve at every job that pertains to the National Football League.” Tomlin commented. “Equipment man, a college equipment man that becomes a pro equipment man, his job is somewhat different, and I’m sure someone that covers college football in your space, it becomes significantly different when they cover professional football. I think that’s a reasonable discussion regardless of what we’re talking about in our ecosystem that is football.”

So, to recap, Tomlin has no reservations about Canada’s play calling, but also recognizes the learning curve which is natural for anyone who is transitioning into the NFL, regardless of where they came from.

But with only two games left in the regular season, is it fair to suggest things might change with the Steelers overall offensive plan? There is a good chance these are Ben Roethlisberger’s final two regular season games, and maybe the final two games of his tremendous career, could Tomlin allow Roethlisberger to have more control of the offense? It isn’t something he is opposed to doing.

“I’m not opposed to that.” Tomlin answered. “Ben is always a component of planning, particularly as it pertains to starts. He’s a guy that’s been on the job 18 years at the quarterback position. You know, it would be foolish for us not to include him in the process, so I’m not going to pretend like that has not been a component or a part of the discussions as it pertains to the development of plans to this point in the season.”

Speaking of this potentially being Roethlisberger’s last home game, has Tomlin considered doing anything out of the ordinary, or different, for what could be his last ride at Heinz Field?

“You know, I don’t know that it’s going to impact anything relative to what we intend to do or what he intends to do. Like I’ve mentioned several times, when that subject is broached in these settings, Ben has really done a nice job of setting the pace regarding that throughout the season. He’s been singularly focused on the next challenge in where we are in terms of the here and now, so it’s been easy to follow his lead in that regard, and I’m sure we all will do the same as we press forward toward Monday Night Football.”

If Canada has a statistic which illustrates the team’s offensive struggles, it is how ice cold the team has been coming out of the gate. The team has failed to score a first half touchdown in their last five football games, and when you listen to Tomlin speak, it doesn’t seem as if they have any logical reasoning on how to get out of their current funk.

“It is what it is. I’m not going to try to explain it away.” Tomlin said. “We can sit in settings like this and talk about it all day and you can walk away about feeling good about my answer and write a story, but that doesn’t solve the problem. Action does. So, we have an additional 24 hours of prep. We plan to use it from a schematic standpoint. We have a number of guys like I mentioned in the opening statement who are working their way back to us either from COVID or injury. How we divide that labor up and highlight their positive attributes and work to minimize our collective negative attributes are going to be a component of that discussion.”

The Steelers could see players like Pat Freiermuth (concussion), Kevin Dotson (ankle) and Zach Banner (COVID-19) get back on the practice field this week, and they could be welcome additions to the offense which has struggled mightily in past weeks. Will it solve all their problems, especially on offense? Absolutely not, but it will go a long way to helping the offense at least move the ball with some semblance of regularity.

As for Canada, the jury remains out on his first season as offensive coordinator. The fact Roethlisberger has a large say in the game plan isn’t abnormal to every other NFL franchise, but the fact Tomlin acknowledges a learning curve might equate to Canada getting another shot at calling plays with a year under his belt. This might dismay many members of the Steelers’ fan base, but Canada returning is a strong possibility heading into the 2022 season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 on Monday Night Football at Heinz Field.