The Matt Canada era with the Pittsburgh Steelers is officially finished.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the news some Pittsburgh fans have been itching to hear for arguably more than a year — the team fired offensive coordinator Canada on November 21.
Following Canada’s firing, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin released a statement through the team’s X (formerly Twitter) account.
“Matt Canada has been relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator. I appreciate Matt’s hard work and dedication, and I wish him the best moving forward in his career.”
The Steelers posted a 24-19-1 record with Canada as their offensive coordinator. But in three partial seasons, the Steelers never finished better than 21st in points scored or 23rd in offensive yards.
After Week 11, Pittsburgh is ranked 28th in both points scored and offensive yards. They are also 31st in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Matt Canada Promotion Was Controversial
The decision was a little controversial at the time. Canada didn’t have a job before the Steelers hired him as quarterbacks coach, and he had coached just one NFL season before receiving the offensive coordinator promotion.
For that reason, one could call Canada’s tenure an offensive experiment. It went very poorly.
In his first season, Canada’s offense averaged 3.3 yards per rush and 5.4 yards per pass during the first quarter. That can be credited to his poor game plans.
During the second half in the 2021 season, the Steelers averaged 4.2 yards per rush and 6.4 yards per pass. One could credit that to Canada’s halftime adjustments, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger often went to the no-huddle offense in the second half of games that season.
In the no-huddle offense, Roethlisberger appeared to do a lot of improvising.
Steelers Offense Regressing in 2023
When the Steelers began the 2022 season with a 2-6 record, grumblings that the team should fire Canada grew.
But the team finished the season with a 7-2 mark behind a renewed rushing attack. The Steelers averaged 146 rushing yards per game in those nine contests.
That essentially allowed Canada the opportunity to finish his three-year contract as team offensive coordinator. But in 2023 during Kenny Pickett’s first full season as starter, the offense regressed again.
The Steelers are 30th in first downs and 31st in average plays per drive this season. They’ve scored on just 27.8% of their drives, which is 29th in the NFL.
In Week 9, the Steelers moved Canada to the sideline to call plays. While that initially led to improved first-quarter play and better offense overall, the bottom fell out of Pittsburgh’s offense against the Cleveland Browns on November 19.
Pickett threw for a career-low 106 passing yards in the 13-10 loss. Running back Jaylen Warren received just 9 carries despite averaging 14.3 yards per rush.
After the game, frustration boiled over for multiple Steelers offensive players.
“I want to say what I really want to say, but it’s difficult,” running back Najee Harris told reporters, via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo.
“There is a lot of stuff that goes around that you guys don’t see. I’m at a point where I’m just tired of this s***.”
Steelers Expected to Split Offensive Coordinator, Play-Calling Duties
The Steelers have yet to say who will replace Canada for the rest of the season, but Pelissero expects two coaches to assume his overall role.
“No official announcement, but my understanding is the Steelers are expected to have RB coach Eddie Faulkner take over as OC, with QB coach Mike Sullivan handling play-calling duties,” Pelissero wrote on X.
Sullivan is in his 19th NFL season. He replaced Canada as Steelers quarterback coach in 2021.
Faulkner has been Pittsburgh’s running backs coach since the 2019 season.
Based on the frustration of players following the Browns loss, Tomlin could have fired Canada this week to avoid losing control of the locker room. But according to The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette’s Gerry Dulac, the decision to fire Canada didn’t come from Tomlin.
“Steelers president Art Rooney II has fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada, per team sources,” Dulac wrote on X.
Regardless of who made the ultimate decision to fire Canada, it’s historic in Steelers history.
“To the best of my knowledge, Pittsburgh firing Matt Canada is the first instance in Steelers history of the team firing a coordinator mid-season,” Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora wrote on X.
In 44 games with Canada as offensive coordinator, the Steelers never had a 400-yard game of total offense. They scored more than 20 points in just 16 of those 44 contests.
Pickett threw for multiple touchdowns in only 1 of his 22 starts under Canada.