The Steelers have a winning record 11 weeks into the 2023 NFL season, but they are making a key change in hopes of bolstering their playoff effort.
The team announced on Tuesday that it was parting ways with third-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
“I appreciate Matt’s hard work and dedication, and I wish him the best of luck moving forward,” head coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement announcing the decision.
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The timing of Canada’s firing is notable, as it comes midseason. The Steelers haven’t had an in-season firing since 1941, when the team’s half-owner, Bert Bell, fired himself, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Pittsburgh’s last in-season coaching change came when Dan Rooney accepted head coach Buddy Parker’s resignation after four games in 1965, per long-time Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette.
However, team president Art Rooney II ultimately made the call to do so this time, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. So, that the Steelers couldn’t wait demonstrates how dire things were for the team on offense.
Here’s what to know about Canada’s firing and what it means for the Steelers moving forward.
Why did the Steelers fire Matt Canada?
The Steelers fired Canada simply because he proved ineffective as a play-caller for the team. The veteran college coach was in charge of Pittsburgh’s offense for two-plus seasons, but he was never able to turn it into anything other than a below-average unit.
Canada entered 2023 on the hot seat but was unable to improve upon his previous results as the man in charge of the Pittsburgh offense.
The Steelers rank bottom-five in both points per game and yards per game this season and have seen their passing offense bottom out with a ranking of 31st overall through 11 weeks. All were good for the team’s worst marks under Canada.
Though the Steelers are 6-4, they have been outgained in all 10 games.
Year Total yards rank Scoring offense rank Passing yards rank2021 23rd 21st 15th2022 23rd 26th 24th2023 28th 28th 31st
Not only was the offense stagnating, but second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett was failing to progress under Canada’s watch. Pickett has cleaned up his turnover issues, but he hasn’t taken the step forward as a passer that Steelers fans were hoping he would.
Kenny Pickett stats 2022 season 2023 seasonComp. % 63 60.5Passing yards per game 184.9 172.2TDs 7 6INTs 9 4Yards per attempt 6.2 6.1Passer rating 76.7 79.2QBR 53.6 35.7PFF grade 75.5 (18th of 39) 64.9 (27th of 38)
The Steelers aren’t yet likely ready to give up on Pickett, whom they spent a first-round pick on in 2022. So, it only stood to reason that Canada would have to go during the offseason to salvage Pickett’s career.
That timeline was moved up, however, with the Steelers’ playoff hopes teetering on the brink. Now they will get a chance to evaluate Pickett independent of Canada and see if the scheme was holding him back or whether quarterback is also among the team’s biggest issues.
Who is the new Steelers offensive coordinator?
The Steelers will officially be giving Eddie Faulker the title of interim offensive coordinator, per CBS Sports’ Aditi Kinkhabwala. Faulkner has served as the team’s running backs coach for five seasons and he will take on the responsibility of talking to the media and running the offense on a day-to-day basis.
However, he will not be the play-caller for the team. Those responsibilities will fall to Steelers quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan, who has a “strong relationship” with Pickett, per Kinkhabwala.
Sullivan also has previous NFL experience as an offensive coordinator. That came with the Buccaneers from 2012 to 2013 before serving in the same role with the Giants from 2016 to 2017.
Sullivan helped lead the Buccaneers to a top-10 offense in 2012 but regressed in his second year with the team. With the Giants, he coached two below-average units that ultimately struggled to perform at a consistent level.
Below is a look at his stats by year in those roles.
Year Team Total yards rank Scoring offense rank Passing yards rank2013 Buccaneers 9th 13th 10th2014 Buccaneers 32nd 30th 32nd2016 Giants 25th 26th 17th2017 Giants 21st 31st 19th
So, on paper, Sullivan looks like to be similar to Canada, though he does have at least one above-average season to his name. And as mentioned, his relationship with Pickett should help him in his quest to get this Steelers offense back on track.
It won’t necessarily be easy for the Steelers to turn their offense into that of a contender this season. But if Sullivan and Faulkner can help the team make some minor improvements to that unit, then they will be a pesky team as they challenge for a postseason berth.