One of the biggest question marks facing the Pittsburgh Steelers entering the 2021 regular season is the offense. Not just players and positions, but from the top down, starting with offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Canada is a unique individual who has only coached at the collegiate level, and wherever he has stayed it hasn’t been for long. He has coached at NC State, LSU, Pitt and Maryland, among other locations, but the 2021 season will be his first year calling plays at the NFL level.
In 2020 he got his feet wet with the professional game as the Steelers’ quarterbacks coach, and some suggest he was calling some plays be the end of the season. That might be mere speculation, but there is no guessing who will be calling the plays in 2021.
What everyone wants to know is what Canada’s offense will look like? Will it be run-heavy? Will there be a ton of pre-snap motion? Or will he mold it around Ben Roethlisberger, trying not to stray too far from what the future Hall of Fame quarterback’s comfort zone?
After rookie minicamp wrapped up this weekend, players were asked their early thoughts/reviews of Canada’s offense.
“The offense is awesome.” Second round pick Pat Friermuth said. “I think it’s very complex and I think it’s going to utilize the talent we have on this roster. From the first ‘walk through’ today, felt great, felt like I understand most of what’s going on.
“It’s complex but it’s simple in the same way.” The former Penn State tight end said. “I think Coach Canada puts guys on the field where they can create mismatches and I think he does a good job just kind of understanding and kind of figuring out what the defense’s weaknesses are. I can kind of see that with the looks he gave out there for the ‘look’ team today and what he’s put together.”
Freiermuth was asked about how much pre-snap motion in Canada’s offense, at least in what he has seen thus far, and he said there’s “a decent amount”.
The Steelers’ top draft pick, Najee Harris, was asked about his thoughts of his first NFL playbook, and Harris said it wasn’t that different from what he did when playing for Alabama for four years.
“There are a lot of things that’s are similar, just different terminology, the same meaning at the end of the day,” Harris said. “The one thing that is similar is how they are going to line me up out wide like they did in college, utilize the running back in the passing game out wide, in the slot, at the X position. The schemes of the runs, the inside zone, the outside zone. A lot of what they are doing in their offense is a lot of what we did. Putting the players in the best position to make a play. Not doing a lot of thinking, just fast playing. The more you think, the slower you play. It seems like they are trying to make everything as easy as possible so the players can just play fast and really use the best of their ability.
“The way they utilize their players, have the whole scheme of everything. I am going to do as much as I can to learn. I am just trying to learn everything about the whole program, the ins and outs of the offense. I am still learning. I am trying to be a sponge as much as I can.”
This all sounds extremely exciting for fans who grew tired of the Roethlisberger/Randy Fichtner offense, but you have to wonder if you go back to the 2019 season if rookies and veterans alike weren’t lauding Fichtner’s offense the way these players are with Canada’s system?
Canada will have pressure on him to perform in his first year as an NFL play caller, and everyone is excited to see what he can dial up to help the Steelers offense not just run the ball better, but become more efficient and balanced.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of the offseason and the 2021 regular season.