The Pittsburgh Steelers have scored just 11 touchdowns in eight games (4 rushing, 6 passing, 1 on defense) leaving them last in the NFL in scoring at 15.0 points per game. Most observers lay the blame for the team’s struggles at the feet of offensive coordinator Matt Canada. That includes former Steelers offensive lineman Trai Essex, who said he is “past the point of mad” about the team’s offense, and has called for Canada to be fired.
Yet one of his longtime teammates, ex-Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke, believes that Canada is merely part of the problem. On Nov. 3, Hoke appeared on The Cook and Joe Show on 93.7 The Fan (Pittsburgh) and defended the beleaguered offensive coordinator.
Chris Hoke: ‘Guys Are Open’
“In terms of Coach Tomlin keeping Matt Canada, listen, you go back and watch that film and everybody can say what they want but guys are open and Kenny’s not seeing them,” he began, referring to rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett, who took over from Mitch Trubisky halfway through the Jets game in Week 4.
“This (Eagles) game, Kenny missed throws. On third and ten he has Pat Freiermuth open for a first down and he sails the ball. Is that on Matt Canada? You tell me. On a third down he throws the ball to Diontae Johnson, but he had Pat Freiermuth down the seam wide open for a touchdown. He doesn’t even look at him,” said Hoke, before citing additional examples, including an incomplete pass to rookie wide receiver George Pickens and a running play involving running back Najee Harris.
“Those are plays that are called that are not being executed,” added Hoke, before reminding listeners that he played in the league for 11 years and “know(s) how to watch film. When guys aren’t executing, when things aren’t getting done, how can you put that on Matt Canada?”
This isn’t to say that Hoke is a believer in Canada’s offense.
“I don’t think he has the best scheme, but it’s good enough that if the quarterback can see a guy wide open and hit him, they can score some points,” concluded Hoke, a former undrafted free agent who won a Super Bowl under Bill Cowher and another under Mike Tomlin before retiring after the 2011 season.
Chris Hoke: Kenny Pickett is Going to Be a ‘Good’ NFL Quarterback
That said, Hoke attributes Pickett’s struggles to the fact that he’s a rookie; he also believes that now that he has replaced Trubisky as the starter, the team needs to live with his growing pains.
But the BYU product, now 46, sounds relatively unenthused about Pickett’s upside potential.
“I believe he’s going to be a good quarterback in the NFL,” said Hoke. “Is he going to be great? Is he going to be Ben Roethlisberger? Probably not. But is he going to be good enough to be a franchise quarterback? I think so.”
Making things harder right now is the fact that Pickett doesn’t have a running game or top defense to lean on while he goes through his so-called growing pains.
“They’ve got nothing right now,” concluded Hoke, emphatically, without noting that Pickett has just two touchdown passes and eight interceptions (66.8 passer rating) since he was inserted into the starting lineup.
Yet Hoke doesn’t believe that Canada — or rookie struggles — will damage Pickett long-term.
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt Kenny Pickett’s progression, I really don’t. He’ll get through this year,” said Hoke. “What I think they need to do in the offseason is to bring in … a big-time offensive coordinator or a position coach. A guy that has a proven record of developing quarterbacks. That’s what Kenny Pickett needs if they want him to take the next step.”