Steelers Promote Quarterbacks Coach to Offensive Coordinator

Matt Canada

Will Newton/Getty Images Matt Canada on November 3, 2018.

On Monday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that quarterbacks coach Matt Canada has been promoted to be the team’s new offensive coordinator. He replaces the much maligned Randy Fichtner, who was one of three assistants that head coach Mike Tomlin decided not to bring back for 2021.

Canada was hired as Pittsburgh’s quarterback’s coach on January 15, 2020, coming over from the college game, where he had two decades of experience as a QB coach and offensive coordinator. His hiring was motivated, in part, by the desire to further develop backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, as well as third-stringer Josh Dobbs and fourth-stringer Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges, who has since moved on to the Los Angeles Rams. He also added creative new wrinkles to Fichtner’s offense, including jet sweeps and pre-snap motion, tweaks that were very much on display in the first half of the 2020 season.

Canada’s Success as a College Coach

Canada has built up a reputation as something of an innovator at his many college stops, which include: Indiana, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, LSU, North Carolina State and the University of Pittsburgh. In his most recent college job, he served as the interim head coach at the University of Maryland in 2018.

In Canada’s one season with the Pitt Panthers (2016), his offense averaged a school-record 42 points per game while leading the nation in red-zone touchdown percentage (82%). Moreover, the Panthers scored at least 28 points in all 12 regular season games, including a 43-42 victory against eventual national champion Clemson.

That year Canada was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which is given to college football’s top assistant coach. Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman—who passed for 27 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in 2016—went on to be a fifth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Canada’s Promotion Paves the Way for the Return of Ben Roethlisberger?

In theory, Canada’s continued presence on Tomlin’s staff could make it easier for starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to return for an 18th season. It seems unlikely that Roethlisberger would want to adjust to a new coordinator and learn a new offense for what would likely be his last year in the NFL.

As for Roethlisberger’s performance under Canada, he completed 399 of 608 passes for 3,803 yards, with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Steelers passing game ranked seventh in the AFC, and 15th in the NFL.

But Canada’s biggest challenge figures to be resuscitating Pittsburgh’s running game, which produced the fewest yards in the NFL (1,351) in 2020. He will also be part of the effort to tutor former Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who signed a one-year contract with the Steelers last week.

There were at least two other candidates under consideration for Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator job, namely former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson and Los Angeles Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton.

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