Matt Canada is clearly in over his head as Steelers offensive coordinator

PAUL ZEISE
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
This Jun 16, 2021 file photo shows Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada, right, talking with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) during the team's NFL mini-camp football practice in Pittsburgh.  (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar/File)

Four words every Steelers fan out there never thought they would ever say are, "Bring back Randy Fichtner."

But after watching three weeks of this current mess of an offense, that's exactly what they should be saying.

Actually, forget about Fichtner — wouldn't you love to have Todd Haley back at this point?

Haley's offense was Bill Walsh-level genius compared to what we have witnessed from the Steelers ever since he was shoved out the door and replaced by Fichtner. Haley's offense at least had structure. There was a plan, it made sense and it was almost always productive in both the run and pass games.

The Steelers' current offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, looks like a college coach trying to out-scheme NFL coaches. It looks like a college offense designed for the college game, and Canada's play calling suggests he is completely in over his head in the NFL.

Mike Tomlin, who presumably hired Canada, said Sunday after the Steelers' 24-10 loss to the Bengals that this was a total team effort. He said the players didn't play well enough and the coaches didn't coach well enough. He was then asked about what he thinks about Canada's growth as a coordinator and he was not interested in that discussion.

"We are not playing well enough," Tomlin answered. "Frame it however the hell you want to frame it."

Canada has no clue: There is only one way to frame it, and it is that there is not a single thing Canada has shown that establishes he has any clue about what to do in his first role as an NFL offensive coordinator. He was hired to fix the running game, and it may have actually gotten worse — which is saying something.

Najee Harris had 14 carries for 40 yards — and that included a 20-yard run early — in the game. He was blown up at the line, knocked down, knocked back and didn't have much of a chance to be successful.

Yes, some of that falls on the offensive line, which is not very good right now. The right tackle spot is bad. Both guards got penalties and were beaten multiple times. Kendrick Green will be a good player, but he is undersized and right now he isn't capable of handling the full-time center duties without getting pushed around some.

I get it, it is hard to call plays when you can't block anyone. But Canada is supposed to be a run-game guru. His run-blocking schemes are supposed to minimize the weaknesses of any offensive lines. That's a big reason he was promoted. And clearly Harris is an excellent player, so if the run game is broken, it is as much schematic as anything.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said despite the woes so far, he is in favor of staying the course. He said they are all searching for answers but believes they will improve if they just stick with it.

"We believe in [the offense] and we believe in each other," Roethlisberger said. "We are not going to quit on it and not going to quit on each other."

It is true Roethlisberger has stunk for the most part, as well. And the receivers and tight ends had some opportunities to make plays but had a few drops, and that doesn't help. But when you have no identity as an offense, it isn't just about execution and the Jimmys and Joes.

In this case, the Jimmys and Joes aren't getting it done, but that's because their Xs and Os are more like Ys and Ps.

Damning statements: Perhaps the most damning statements about Canada's offense and his lack of ability came from both Tomlin and Roethlisberger with regards to a fourth-down play late in the fourth quarter. The Steelers, trailing 24-10, had a 4th-and-10 from the Bengals 11 with 3:09 to play, and for all intents and purposes the game was on the line.

For whatever reason, the play call was a little swing pass to Harris that was caught behind the line of scrimmage and actually lost a yard. Now think about that — somebody thought it would be a good idea with 10 yards to get and the game on the line to throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage in the flat.

That wasn't bad enough, though, as the explanation spoke volumes about just how overmatched Canada must be.

"We had fired all of our bullets at that juncture in terms of play selection," Tomlin said.

Wait, what?

Both Tomlin and Roethlisberger made reference to the Bengals defense being sort of a "picket fence" set up along the goal line. And both essentially said they didn't have any plays capable of penetrating it, so they hoped they could get Harris out in open space and have him cover the ground and make guys miss.

That's ridiculous. It is beyond ridiculous. You mean to tell me you didn't have any play — like a jump ball to one of your receivers in the end zone? You couldn't draw up some sort of fade to the corner of the end zone in the dirt?

No time for on-the-job training: It is a long season, I know, and there is a lot of football left to be played. Maybe Canada will grow into his job and stop trying to run a college offense, but this is presumably Roethlisberger's final year and they are supposed to be in win-now mode.

The fact that the Steelers apparently have on-the-job training going on in one of the most important positions on the staff is an embarrassment. Yes, the Steelers need to play and execute better, but until Canada gets better at his job, this offense will be rudderless and destined to fail.