It’s Up to Matt Canada to Turn the Steelers’ Offense Around

(Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

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Tonight, the Pittsburgh Steelers finds themselves in yet another divisional showdown on the road, this time facing off against the Cleveland Browns.  While they were able to eke out a win in a similar situation Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals, today's test could prove to be a taller task.  The offense has sputtered so far this season and a lot of the blame has fallen upon new quarterback Mitch Trubisky's shoulders.  While he's certainly a part of the problem, there's a larger issue holding this offense back.

We are only two games into the 2022 season and yet I'm infuriated by the offensive play of the Steelers.  Although it's a small sample size, I just feel that everything we heard all offseason about this offense changing, now that the limitations of Ben Roethlisberger are gone, has not come to fruition.  The play calling I've seen in these first two games is about as vanilla as it gets.

And it turns out that I'm not the only one that feels this way.  Alex Kozora created a thread on Twitter, which you can view through the tweet below, detailing the play calling of offensive coordinator Matt Canada in last week's game against the New England Patriots. The calls we've seen out of Canada thus far lack imagination, and are even redundant.  As evidenced in the thread, there are plays being run 3+ times in the same game, out of the exact same formation.  You might be able to get away with that kind of thing in college football but that certainly isn't going to fly in the NFL.  Especially against a Bill Belichick defense.

When Trubisky was signed in the offseason, there was a sense of relief amongst Steelers fans that a more mobile quarterback would help the offense flourish.  However, it appears that Canada has done little to utilize that skillset and set this offense up for success.

As a Pitt fan, I'm no stranger to watching a Matt Canada offense.  In his one year as their offensive coordinator, the Pitt offense was explosive and high-flying.  Basically, the opposite of what I've seen in his time as the Steelers' offensive coordinator.  As I mentioned, the college and professional games are very different and the sweeps and end-arounds that made the Pitt offense succeed won't translate to the NFL.  However, that offense showed that Canada is capable of making the most of the pieces at his disposal and creating an efficient offense out of them, which makes what I'm seeing all that more frustrating.

This offense possesses one of the best, if not the best, wide receiver trios in the entire league.  Between Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and rookie George Pickens, along with tight end Pat Freiermuth, there's no shortage of weapons to stretch the field.  Yet, it feels like every pass play ends up in a short throw or dump down.  These are the plays truly holding this offense back.  More creativity can allow these guys to show off their talent and unlock this offense's playmaking abilities.

Now, the blame is not solely Canada's.  The offensive line, while holding up better than expected through two games, is still a work-in-progress.  Trubisky also hasn't been as effective in his play and decision making as he could be.  Plus, it looks like running back Najee Harris is hampered by the foot injury he's been dealing with since training camp, lacking the quickness that we saw out of him last year.  However, that's no excuse for running the same plays over and over.

And I do feel like I've seen flashes from this offense in these two games, so I know they're capable of playing at a high level.  In overtime against Cincinnati, when the team needed points and their backs seemed to be against the wall, it was like the playbook finally opened up and the ball moved effectively down the field.  It's in these times of urgency that I've felt the offense has played their best.  However, these flashes are seemingly few and far between, which has left fans frustrated.

All in all, I feel like it's unfair to Trubisky to hear fans calling for rookie Kenny Pickett to replace him already when it doesn't seem like he's been put in the best position to succeed.  On primetime television under the lights in Cleveland tonight, this offense will be placed under a national microscope.  If it continues to struggle, there will be even further outcry by the fans.  I just ask that before criticizing the quarterback, I suggest taking a look at the person calling the plays and the scheme deployed by the offense before saying that Trubisky should be benched for Pickett.