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Matt Canada explains in-game communication with Ben Roethlisberger

The Steelers’ offensive coordinator is doing things a little different compared to the two coordinators before him.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout Ben Roethlisberger’s lengthy career, he has had a number of offensive coordinators calling games. They’ve all been different in their style and approach, but another factor differentiates one from the other.

Where they call the plays.

When Roethlisberger came into the league, his offensive coordinator was Ken Whisenhunt, his first year at the job, and Whisenhunt would call all the plays from the coaches box. Communication at that time was different, and relied on phone communication between coach and player during the game.

After Whisenhunt departed, Bruce Arians took over, and Arians, like Todd Haley and Randy Fichtner who followed, all called plays from the sideline. In this case the coordinator and quarterback communication was 1-on-1 with both the coaches and players look at photos/video together after a series or drive.

Entering the 2021 season, Roethlisberger isn’t just having to learn a new system, but he is having to get acclimated to not having his coordinator on the sideline with Matt Canada, like Whisenhunt before him, calling plays from the coaches’ box.

It might seem like a simple change, but there is more that goes into it than just having a coach up in the booth. During Matt Canada’s Wednesday press availability, he outlined the in-game communication between coordinator and quarterback.

“I’m able to talk directly to Ben on the field up until 15 seconds.” Canada stated. “Calling the plays, there’s no middleman with that. A lot of guys are obviously doing it in the league. When Ben comes off, Sully [Mike Sullivan]’s right there with him. We’ve got a headset for Ben. If Ben wants to talk to me or if I want to talk to Ben, he puts the headset on. We did that last week: Here’s what we saw, here’s what we’re thinking, what about this. It’s a very fluid situation there. I think it went very well last week, and obviously last week was just what it was, but we feel good about where we’re at with that.”

The communication between Canada and Roethlisberger, not just in-game, has been tremendous in the early stages of the 2021 season. Granted, they haven’t had games which counted yet, but in this regard it is so far, so good between Canada and the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Canada noted how he and Roethlisberger have the same goal in mind...to score at least one more point than the opposition.

“I think Ben and I have a very similar belief that all we want to do is win games. We’re gonna work together. I’ve said it from day one: I’ve learned from him, I’ve listened to him, and obviously, we have things like, “Let’s give this a look,” on both sides. Maybe, “We’re doing this, and this is a thought I had,” and, “Give this a look,” and, “Hey, look at this from his perspective.” All we’re trying to do is find a way to score one more point on the team we play every week we play.” Canada said. “That’s our only goal. I think all of us are doing that, certainly. Not minimizing the great ability and knowledge of the game Ben has. I’ve said that multiple times. We’re gonna use everything we can to get that done.”

If the new normal for the Steelers’ offense is what fans got to see in the first half of the Steelers vs. Detroit Lions preseason game last Saturday night at Heinz Field, Canada and Roethlisberger will be setting new heights for Pittsburgh. There will be bumps in the road, but it seems as if the Steelers are just fine heading into the regular season from a communication standpoint.

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.