PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers fired embattled offensive coordinator Matt Canada on Tuesday after a more than two-year tenure in which the team struggled to consistently put up points and yards.
Head coach Mike Tomlin announced the move two days after the Steelers only managed 10 points in a dismal loss to Cleveland, and said in a statement that he appreciated Canada’s “hard work and dedication.”
However, that commitment wasn’t enough to help Pittsburgh’s offense break out of a familiar pattern that has followed the franchise in recent years. The Steelers (6-4) have remained in playoff contention despite an offense that ranks 28th in yards and points.
Frustration outside the organization has been growing for months. In a win over Cleveland on Sept. 18, fans chanted “Fire Canada,” a refrain that became ubiquitous across the region and meme-worthy on social media.
While Tomlin defended Canada for weeks, frustration in the locker room may have reached its peak after the Steelers were held to 249 yards rushing — including just 106 passes — against the Browns. Running back Najee Harris said afterward that he was “tired of this (stuff),” and wide receiver Diontae Johnson simply said “you saw the game” when asked what might have been wrong.
Perhaps worst of all for Canada is the way quarterback Kenny Pickett’s growth has stagnated. Pickett, drafted in the first round in 2022, had a promising rookie season a year ago and began showing signs of being a difference-maker in the preseason this summer.
When the games started counting, everything disappeared. Pickett has just six touchdown passes – just two since early October – and his accuracy has declined, even after the Steelers recently moved Canada from the dugout to the sideline to allow for better communication and flow.
While the decision was welcomed by players in wins over Tennessee and Green Bay, the offense took another significant step backwards against the Browns.
There was no immediate information about who will take over play-calling duties, although quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan – who previously served as offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay and with the New York Giants – expects he will take over the job on an interim basis.
The decision comes as the Steelers are about to begin a manageable portion of their schedule. None of their next five opponents – Cincinnati (twice), New England, Arizona and Indianapolis – are currently over .500.
Pittsburgh probably just needs a small increase in production to return to the playoffs after narrowly missing out a year ago. The advent of the running game last winter led to a 7-2 push that helped Canada keep its job.
But the moves Tomlin expected from Pickett – and by extension the rest of the offense – in 2023 have not been consistently implemented. The Steelers have been outrebounded in all 10 games this season, including last week in Cleveland when the Browns used rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback.
Thompson-Robinson led Cleveland on a late game-winning drive that came after Pickett threw three incompletions on Pittsburgh’s second-to-last possession, none of which came close to reaching their target.
While Tomlin said afterward that the team didn’t question the decision-making during the game, less than 48 hours later he made a move that was probably inevitable but also surprising, if only because of the timing.
Pittsburgh has long been a model of stability, rarely making a coaching change during the season. But with Pickett seemingly regressing and options becoming more limited, Tomlin decided there was only one big move left.
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