Are The Steelers Better Without Canada?

Are the Steelers better without Matt Canada? I don’t think many fans will attempt to argue otherwise. It is objectively true that Mike Tomlin thought the Steelers would be better off without Matt Canada, because he fired him, and did so in the middle of the season in an enormous departure from precedent. And when this happened, there was universal approval in the media and outright jubilation by the fans. The only concern anyone had about the firing was "why did it take so long?"

You guys know all this. You know it so well, you’re probably thinking right now how unnecessary it is to elaborate on it. And yet, when conversations turn to the potential QB competition for next season, you will routinely hear someone say something like "Mason Rudolph has already outperformed Kenny Pickett in basically the same offense."

I’m not here to argue whether Rudolph or Pickett is the better QB. My issue is that if you’re going to fairly evaluate them or have a reasonable conversation with another fan, you do have to acknowledge that the day you heard Matt Canada was fired was one of your happiest moments of the entire season – because it actually was a big deal.

Mike Tomlin did not break precedent by firing Matt Canada mid-season so that we could run basically the same offense. There was no reason to fire Canada at all unless it was because doing so would significantly improve our ability to win games by significantly improving our offense.

People have pointed out that you can’t change the whole playbook mid-season, but that doesn’t mean it’s basically the same offense. Any football person will tell you the playbook is the least significant thing an offensive coordinator brings to the table, and the difference between playbooks is more about terminology than contents. What matters more is how a coordinator game plans, what plays are focused on in practice, and when plays are called in a game, and all of that changed drastically when Canada was fired.

Just look at playcalling alone. One of the most common criticisms of Matt Canada was his predictable playcalling, with opponents even commenting on calling out his plays before they happened. The difference between running plays the defense knows are coming and running plays the defense doesn’t know are coming is enormously significant. That alone would make a huge difference, but that’s not even all of it. Having a game plan that effectively targets your opponents’ weaknesses is similarly significant. Communicating with your position coaches to have players prepared to execute the game plan is similarly significant. Those differences do show up on the field too.

Just think back to those games that have gone down in the past as "coaching losses." Even guys like Big Ben have had bad games because the opposing defensive coordinator decisively outcoached the Steelers OC. Matt Canada got decisively outcoached every game, and all the Steelers fans and all the media said the sooner he was let go the better because he was significantly holding back our offense, which Mike Tomlin ultimately agreed with.

So all I’m saying is let’s not act now like Matt Canada wasn’t really holding back the offense that much, and he was basically just as good as Faulkner/Sullivan. If you were chanting "Canada is Basically As Good As Faulkner And Sullivan" while everyone else was chanting "Fire Canada," then feel free to keep making that point. But if you were one of those chanting "Fire Canada," don’t turn around now and act like there was no real difference in our offense over the last 3 games other than Rudolph being at QB. If you want to talk about how Rudolph has better pocket presence than Pickett or sees the field better, be my guest, but let’s stop this nonsense about how he was running "basically the same offense."

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