The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season came to a screeching halt on Sunday night in a 42-21 Wild Card loss the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. Following the loss, Mike Tomlin met with media on Tuesday for a season-ending wrap up press conference, and in this format Tomlin spoke about several things, but the most discussed topic was by far the future of the team’s coordinators.
Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada was promoted from within in 2021 to replace Randy Fichtner, and on paper Canada is the perfect person fans would want as their offensive play caller. Fans had wanted someone who could bring some of the college philosophies to the Steelers, and a fresh outlook.
Canada checks all those boxes, but the end result was far from desirable as the Steelers’ offense actually took a step backwards in 2021. Nonetheless, when Tomlin was asked about Canada’s future, he was more than non-committal on Canada’s future. He did say he was optimistic with what Canada is capable of doing, but did mention how there were tangible reasons why the offense struggled.
This per Brooke Pryor of ESPN:
Tomlin: "I'm optimistic about Matt (Canada) and what he's capable of doing. i acknowledge we took a step back. there are obvious tangible reasons why that occurred."— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 18, 2022
Tomlin was pressed about Canada’s overall performance this season, and his satisfaction with the job the first year coordinator provided. Tomlin stated he wasn’t satisfied with anything, but stated how there were other components, mainly personnel, to consider when evaluating his performance.
Mike Tomlin on the Matt Canada offense: "I'm not expressing satisfaction with any component of it. I'm acknowledging that he brings things to the table that are attractive. We need to be better and we will be. .. I'm not acknowledging satisfaction with anything we've done."— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 18, 2022
The natural follow up question for this topic was if Canada had his hands tied when it came to what he could, or could not, do based on the players he had on the field. For instance, if he wanted to run a Run-Pass-Option (RPO) heavy offense, Ben Roethlisberger was certainly not the quarterback to execute this style of offense. As Tomlin put it, “When you’ve got red paint, you’ve got to paint the bar red.”
Tomlin asked if Matt Canada had to hold back some of the offense as the season went on bc of personnel: "When you've got red paint, you've got to paint the barn red."— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 18, 2022
On the other side of the ball is long-time defensive coordinator Keith Butler. Butler had a defense which got after the quarterback, but couldn’t stop the run for the vast majority of the regular season. Some had wondered if Butler’s time in Pittsburgh had come to a close, and Tomlin made it seem as if Butler had been considering retirement following this season.
This per Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports:
Tomlin on Butler: "Buts has talked about this potentially being his last year." Said they will discuss that when the time comes probably later this week.— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) January 18, 2022
Butler had been coaching on a year-to-year type contract, so there is a chance the Steelers and Butler both agree to part ways this offseason. If so, there is a chance the team could promote from within, possibly someone like Teryl Austin could take over as the team’s defensive coordinator.
Nonetheless, Tomlin said he doesn’t “anticipate” any staffing changes this offseason, but quickly followed that up with he won’t be “surprised” by any either.
Tomlin says while he doesn't "anticipate" any staff changes, he won't be "surprised" by any.— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 18, 2022
It is at this time where it is important to note how Tomlin does have a say in staffing changes, but if ownership, Art Rooney II, decides to go in a different direction, he could have the ultimate say in the discussion.
Any fan who expected any clear cut answer during this press conference hasn’t been following Tomlin very long during his tenure with the Steelers. This end of the season press conference is typically filled with answers which say everything, yet say nothing. The proof will be in the pudding in the coming weeks, as it pertains to the future of people like Matt Canada and Keith Butler.
With that being said, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the offseason and the 2022 NFL Draft.
For a complete rundown of Coach Tomlin’s media session, check out BTSC’s Mike Tomlin Press Conference Recap podcast below: