Critics of Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada had less to complain about over the past two weeks. But after a poor passing game showing in a 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, severe criticism for Canada has returned.
He arguably even received criticism from two of his own players immediately after the loss on November 19.
Steelers running back Najee Harris seemed to question Canada’s play calling on the final offensive drive in front of reporters following the game.
“That’s a good question,” Harris said in response to why the Steelers didn’t call a running play on their final drive, via The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo. “Next question.”
Then when asked if other teams know the Steelers play calls before they happen, Harris said, “Yeah, in some situations, to be honest with you.”
Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett made it clear that the Steelers didn’t know what the Browns defensive play calling would be. According to Pickett, Canada didn’t even anticipate correctly if the Browns secondary would mostly play man-to-man or zone defense in Week 11.
“The plan was, they play a lot of man-to-man,” Pickett told reporters in his postgame press conference. “They didn’t play a lot of man-to-man today. They threw a lot of zone looks at us. Different zone looks.
“We were expecting them to come in and play man. We gotta adjust better.”
Based on the final statistics, there didn’t appear to be any adjusting. Taking into account sacks, the Steelers finished with 77 passing yards in Week 11.
Matt Canada’s Predictable Steelers Offense
This isn’t the first time Canada’s play calling has been labeled as predictable.
Media pundits see Canada’s offense as too predictable as well. Former Steelers safety and ESPN analyst Ryan Clark compared Canada’s play calling to something from a video game on October 2.
“Everybody agrees that it’s a problem, and the people who don’t are the people who are in charge of fixing it,” Clark said on his ‘This is Football’ podcast after the Steelers lost to the Houston Texans in Week 4. “Here’s what we saw on Sunday: a predictable offense that runs the same plays over and over. If he has success, he just spans it until it doesn’t work like a Madden player.”
Also after that loss, Texans cornerback Steven Nelson, who played for the Steelers from 2019-20, said film study enabled him to intercept a Pickett pass because he knew what play Pittsburgh was going to run.
Browns’ Jim Schwartz Badly Outcoaches Canada
Hearing Canada’s play calling is predicable from a current Steelers offensive player isn’t good but it’s also not breaking news. What Pickett said about Canada’s passing game plan for Week 11, though, was very incriminating.
The Steelers anticipated Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz playing man-to-man defense because that’s generally what the team has done this season.
But that didn’t happen, as the Browns played more zone coverages. It resulted in Pickett throwing for a career-low 106 passing yards (in a game where he didn’t leave with an injury).
Johnson, Pickens and Freiermuth combined for 60 yards from scrimmage against the Browns in Week 11.
That lack of star player involvement, the offense’s predictability and the utter unpreparedness to face anything but man defense against the Browns all fall completely on Canada.