The Pittsburgh Steelers have been painful to watch through the first six weeks of the 2022 NFL season. With the myriad of changes to the historically stable franchise, no one expected them to light up the scoreboard right out of the gate. But we’re more than a quarter of the way through the season, and they’ve barely shown a sliver of potential.
Taking the brunt of verbal lashings from Steelers fans and national media is offensive coordinator and play-caller Matt Canada, whose unit has been one of the NFL’s worst for two seasons.
The victory over the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the heat off Canada, if for only a moment — the Steelers need to stack wins for the burner to cool. Stacking wins might be challenging with a team that ranks 30th in points scored. They’re currently on pace to score the fewest points since 1998, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Matt Canada is in over his head,” an NFL coach with knowledge of the Steelers situation told Heavy Sports NFL insider Matt Lombardo. “The offensive staff is a mess.”
Matt Canada’s (Brief) History in the NFL
Canada came to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020 with exactly zero experience in the NFL. He bounced around 10 different colleges in various roles since 1994, including a one-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach stint at Pitt in 2016 — where he was part of the staff that recruited Kenny Pickett to the Panthers. He also served as offensive coordinator and interim head coach at Maryland, where Tomlin’s only son Dino played wide receiver for three years.
Canada’s career with the Steelers started as quarterbacks coach, but with Randy Fichtner on the hot seat — and the final year of his contract — the writing was on the wall. The Steelers almost always promote from within and, despite his lack of experience, Canada was sitting pretty for the job.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the move isn’t working out so well. That’s abundantly clear.
Offensive schemes shouldn’t be rocket science, especially with a new quarterback. But apparently, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ scheme is. Is it too complex?
“There are people in that building who are frustrated because the staff will sit around and talk about things for hours that should take minutes to figure out,” the coach disclosed to Lombardo.
There are nine on staff, plus head coach Mike Tomlin. Perhaps too many of them want input on the offense?
Why Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada Won’t be Fired
The Steelers is a franchise steeped in loyalty and tradition. Since the Steelers first entered the league in 1933 as the Pittsburgh Pirates, they’ve been an institution known for devotion and family, not only relatives but family within their team. That tradition is told through its head coaching history — three in 53 years.
Bottom line: The Steelers don’t fire coaches. The unusually patient organization gives their staff long leashes, perhaps to a fault, and certainly too long for the fans’ liking.
Even as recently as offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, whose end in Pittsburgh was erroneously reported by multiple outlets as a “firing.” In actuality, Fichtner’s contract expired and wasn’t renewed, paving the way for Matt Canada’s promotion.
“The thing is, they don’t fire people in Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin is always going to be the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers as long as he wants to be,” the source told Heavy Sports’ Matt Lombardo. “But, I could easily see major offensive changes coming there.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers offense has two things going against it (historically known for doing well): 1) No run game and 2) Inconsistency along the offensive line in both coaching and personnel.
For decades, Pittsburgh was known to ground and pound — running out the clock via the legs of their rock-toting star. For years they had one of the better lines in the NFL, reflected most recently by their Pro Bowl talent in guys like David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva. As they got older, the line became more penetrable.
Which leads us to now — a young, inexperienced offensive line that can’t run-block and a ground game to match.
Will Canada be given the benefit of the doubt and more time to develop his players? Or will there be sweeping offensive changes at the end of the 2022 season?
Matt Canada’s Contract Status with the Steelers
Since the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t fire coaches, especially one that was (likely) hand-picked by Mike Tomlin, Matt Canada will at least be around until his contract expires. The rub: Because there are many unknown variables, no one outside of the organization knows when his contract is officially up.
According to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, Canada’s contract status is unknown because he was promoted (from quarterbacks coach) and not an external hire. In Pittsburgh, coordinators typically receive three-year contracts, while position coaches get two years.
Because Canada was promoted and not a new hire, the contract terms were not disclosed. If the Steelers gave Canada a new contract under his coordinator role, his contract might not expire until after the 2024 season. If he was promoted under the positional contract, 2022 could be his final year.
But it’s a new era for the Steelers. A new (hopefully franchise) quarterback, a new general manager. They even bucked the trend of not extending wide receivers by re-signing Diontae Johnson in August.
Talk of Matt Canada leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers will be moot if the team turns things around in the latter half of the season and finishes above .500. With a 9-8 record or above, you bet stubborn Mike Tomlin will hold steady.
The Standard is the Standard.