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Matt Canada emphasizes the importance of play-action within the Steelers offense

The Steelers’ ability to dictate what the opposition does defensively will be critical in 2021.

Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers global fan base is anxiously awaiting the start of the 2021 regular season for a multitude of reasons.

  • To get the 2020 playoffs out of their collective memories
  • Getting a glimpse of their 2021 NFL Draft class when the games count
  • Watching how good the Steelers’ defense will be, again
  • Seeing what Matt Canada’s offense will look like compared to previous regimes

That last bullet point might be the most poignant, and also the most intriguing as the Week 1 game vs. the Buffalo Bills looms on the horizon. Canada has deployed the usual vanilla offense throughout the Steelers’ four preseason games, but what he could unleash in the regular season could be something drastically different from what fans have seen.

One aspect of the offense which isn’t drastically different, but could equate to massive amounts of success, is the Steelers’ ability to utilize play-action within the offensive scheme. Of course, there is one extremely crucial aspect of the offense to consider when talking about play-action, and that is the actual threat of running the football.

Matt Canada spoke about the play-action game when talking with media Wednesday after practice.

“The defense can stop any play they want. I’ve said that forever. If a defense wants to stop the run, they can stop the run. If a defense wants to stop a pass, they can stop a pass. Our ability to run the ball when we have to run it or throw the ball when we have to throw it is what takes great offenses to where they want to be.” Canada said. “But if we’re gonna run the football—which is something we definitely want to focus on—if you only run it out of certain looks, then they know that.

“So, you have to have play-action pass off that, in our opinion, to be somebody that’s hard to defend. It’s what the defense allows you to do, what the defense matchup presents for you. We just want to be good enough in all facets that whatever they’re trying to stop, we can do the other one.”

Canada’s offenses thrive off mismatches, and designing plays to counteract what the defense is trying to do throughout the course of a game. When you consider the skill position players the Steelers deploy, there are a number of players who can be schemed into being mismatch nightmares. One of those is the elder statesman in the wide receiver room, JuJu Smith-Schuster.

“Our job is to put our players in the best position to make plays.” Canada said. “At the same time, finding those matchups on the other side that exploit whatever we can. Every team’s got great players, but we have to find the best matchup we can, and we could be playing whoever. Getting JuJu inside or outside, getting Chase [Claypool] inside or outside, playing with two tight ends, playing with multiple backs, all those things in a given week, we hope can give us an advantage to let our players play fast.”

Playing fast is one thing, but capitalizing on the mismatches which come from dictating the offense to the defense is what fans truly want to see. Being able to run the football when you want to, even when the defense knows what is coming. Being able to run those play action passes down the field. All of which would seem so foreign to the fans watching, but would be a welcome addition to what could be a very explosive offense in 2021.

Play-action passing is just one aspect of Canada’s offense which is hopefully resurrected within the Steelers this season, and will likely result in not just scoring more points, but winning more football games.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of the 2021 regular season.