The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 regular season has been anything but smooth. Whether you are talking about their overall record, the offense’s early struggles or the transition from veteran Mitch Trubisky to rookie Kenny Pickett.
None of it has been smooth, and the one person who has garnered most of the attention, angst and vitriol from the fan base has been offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Most fans assume the Steelers will part ways with Canada once the season has ended, but, in case you haven’t noticed, the Steelers offense has been performing markedly better since the bye in Week 9.
Since then, the Steelers have run the ball over 100 yards in every game, not turned the ball over, and increased scoring drives. While the point totals (20, 37, 24, 19) aren’t anything to write home about, you can’t ignore how things have improved.
What has caused such a drastic improvement? A large reason for the improvement has been the growing relationship between Pickett and Canada, a relationship which dates back to Pickett’s high school days when Canada helped recruit Pickett out of New Jersey to attend the University of Pittsburgh.
“I just think we connected, like you said, pretty early on in high school, and we have a really good relationship where we can talk about pretty much anything.” Pickett recalled of the first time talking with Canada. “We’re open and honest on what I see, and he asks me all the time. I think that open line of communication is just going to continue to improve and he’s very open to suggestions that we all have as players or staff. It’s a collective effort, and it’s definitely cool to have an OC that’s open to that and not just kind of closed minded. So, it’s a pretty good relationship that he has with all of us.”
It would make sense how the transition from Trubisky to Pickett would take time. After all, it was Trubisky’s job from the first minicamp practice, and at halftime in Week 4 it all changed to Pickett. Each quarterback is more comfortable with different offensive philosophies/plays, and it seems the relationship between Pickett and Canada has helped this transition. For Pickett, it gives him confidence in the way the offense is trending.
“It gives me confidence to tell him what I see and what I feel and we kind of roll with that.” Pickett said. “If he disagrees, he’ll show me on tape. So, it’s great back and forth. Everyone in the building wants to win. That’s all that matters. There’re no egos. We’re all here to work together to get a win.”
Considering where Pickett came from in college, and the style of offense he ran while at Pitt, it has taken him some time to get adjusted to Canada’s offense. While some concepts are familiar to Pickett, one of the biggest adjustments he’s had to make is the amount of time spent under center, and not in shotgun.
“I just think we do a lot more under-center play action than I’ve done in previous years, just in college.” said Pickett. “So, I think that was number one for me. A lot of the concepts are very similar to the West Coast concepts, so I felt really comfortable there. It’s just working under center in the play actions and stuff like that was probably the biggest learning curve.”
Some fans have noticed the offense seems to have opened up a bit since the bye week. This would make sense and be a sign of the coaching staff, in particular Canada, giving Pickett more of the playbook to work with. It also could be a sign of potential things to come, but did the menu of plays Pickett has to choose from really expand?
“I don’t think the menu really ever got tightened up to be honest with you.” Pickett claimed. “We had really good plans I feel like throughout. It’s just the level of execution now you’re seeing at a higher level. So, I think that’s the difference.”
Whether it’s Pickett’s relationship with Canada, or the offense improving from a global perspective, there is no doubt the unit is getting better. That has been the goal since Pickett took over, and as long as they are progressing, albeit slowly, they will be heading in the right direction.
“I mean, there’s no secret, man. Everyone wants to be great fast and all that stuff. We’re pushing ourselves to become that every day. But it’s a process, you have to go through it, you have to learn, you have to go through some adversities to improve and get better. I think we’ve done that. We’ve just got to continue to do that in order to get wins.”
To get their sixth win overall, and third in a row, it will be Pickett and the offense which will have to carry the team against a very stout Baltimore Ravens defense. If they can continue to run the football the way they have, and improve their red-zone production at the same time, it will be a huge step forward for this young, but improving, Steelers offense. Needless to say, this will be a huge test for the Pickett-Canada offense in Week 14.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the huge AFC North battle at Acrisure Stadium this Sunday at 1 pm ET.