The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season couldn’t have ended on a more sour note. Think about the fact they were 11-0 at one point, setting a new franchise record and the lone undefeated team in the NFL. At that point, fans who were logical knew there were deficiencies within the team, but no one saw the team losing 5 of their last 6 en route to an early postseason departure at the hands of the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs.
In the aftermath of the collapse, fans were left wondering if the pieces of the Steelers were even worth picking up and trying to salvage. There was talk of just starting the rebuild and preparing for the future.
Tough decisions needed to be made, and one of those was as the offensive coordinator. Randy Fichtner’s contract was not renewed, meaning he was fired, and the organization promoted Matt Canada from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
Canada is known for his complex and creative schemes and systems to get the most out of the talent he has on any given roster. He has done it wherever he has been at the college level, but never at the professional level. When you look back at team president Art Rooney II’s comments regarding what he expects from Canada, it is blatantly clear.
Run the football.
“We have to start with a commitment to the running game, and that’s something that I’m not sure we’ve always had,” said Rooney. “So as we look at changes to the coaching staff that’ll be part of the mind-set. In terms of the people in this building at this point, everybody understands we’re going to have to be better than that. Again, that contributed to the inconsistency we saw on offense. At times we had an outstanding passing game, and Ben at times was almost unstoppable. But we didn’t always have four quarters where we were being successful at it. We know what kind of work we have to do, and hopefully we’ll be able to get it done.”
When Rooney was asked specifically about Canada, he mentioned why it was Canada, and not other candidates like Hue Jackson, who was given the job of offensive coordinator.
“Matt was our internal candidate that we knew very well, and Mike interviewed a couple of other coaches he felt good about, felt they were good candidates, and they were,” said Rooney. “But at the end of the day he felt like Matt was the best fit for us. Some of the kinds of things you’re seeing in offenses around the league we need to employ in our offense. We did some of that this year. At times we got away from it, and that may have contributed to some of the inconsistency we had in the offense. We look forward to Matt coming in and really having another year to put his system in place, and we think he’ll do a good job.”
The Canada system has been unique wherever he has gone in his career. Whether it was with the University of Pittsburgh, North Carolina State, Maryland or LSU, Canada knows how to bring new, and fresh ideas to the table. But when you look at Rooney’s comments, you know the hope, and the job Canada is tasked with, is to resuscitate the dying Steelers’ ground game.
When people hear the Steelers finishing dead last in yards per game and yards per rush in 2020, they shake their heads and wonder if this really is Steelers football. When they see the Steelers struggle mightily in short yardage situation, they wonder if what they are seeing is actually Steelers football.
Matt Canada will have to revive the ground game, and the hope is by any means necessary. Canada’s systems usually involve a lot of motion, misdirection and run/pass options. Can the Steelers, mainly Ben Roethlisberger, morph into a quarterback able to make this system work?
Only time will tell, but Canada’s professional future might hang in the balance. After all, he has one job in 2021...run the football.
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