The Pittsburgh Steelers, like almost every other NFL franchise, has a quarterbacks coach. Last season it was Matt Canada, and in 2021, with Canada being promoted to offensive coordinator, it is now Mike Sullivan.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
Early in Ben Roethlisberger’s career he had Ken Anderson helping him as the quarterbacks coach, and it was a job Randy Fichtner held for several years following Anderson’s retirement. However, when Fichtner was promoted to offensive coordinator, after Todd Haley was let go, the Steelers didn’t bring in a new quarterbacks coach. Instead, they had Fichtner absorb the position.
This isn’t completely out of the ordinary on NFL coaching staffs. For example, the Steelers’ defensive staff has defensive coordinator Keith Butler not just calling the defensive signals, but also coaching the outside linebackers, a role he has held since Joey Porter was told he would not be returning.
However, you have to wonder how not having a quarterbacks coach might have impacted young signal callers within the Steelers’ system. It likely didn’t harm Roethlisberger, but what about Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges or Joshua Dobbs? Rudolph, who spoke with the media following Organized Team Activities (OTAs) spoke about the value in having a dedicated coach.
Mason Rudolph says having a dedicated QB coach, a "confidant" really helped him improve last season: "Having Matt Canada, having a quarterbacks coach helped me take some steps forward."— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 8, 2021
“Having Matt Canada, having a quarterback coach, really helped me take some steps forward and develop and have that confident week-to-week where I could go to and ask questions,” Rudolph said. “Small sample size, one game. You obviously want to win every ball game you can, but there were a lot of positives to move forward from.”
The fact remains the Steelers absolutely hindered the progress of a player like Rudolph, and others, when they didn’t have a coach there to help them through the process of learning the quarterback position at the NFL level.
Did this impact the games played? In 2019 it certainly did when Roethlisberger was lost for the season after tearing up his elbow in the Week 2 game vs. the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field.
It seems as if the Steelers learned their lesson, and chose to bring in Sullivan when they could have had Canada try to do what Fichtner was asked to do when he was promoted to offensive coordinator, and try to do two jobs at once.
For players like Rudolph, Dobbs and Dwayne Haskins, having a coach with the experience of Sullivan will be a huge help as they try to develop and find their role on the 2021 Steelers.
If anyone can attest to the challenge of learning an NFL system, and getting prepared for the professional game, without a dedicated coach, it would be Rudolph.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.