Super Wild Card Weekend Reinforces Why Matt Canada Needs To Go

Photo credit: Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

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"Defense Wins Championships".  A slogan I'm sure we've all heard many times in our lives, right?  Especially since I assume, if you're reading this, you are a sports fans.  That slogan may still be true, but it is fading, and fading fast.  Also, even if good defense is what wins the Super Bowl for the eventual 2022-23 champion, it will be offense that gets them there.

If you watched this past weekend's NFL playoff games, you saw a lot of scoring.  In fact, every game went over the Total set by the sportsbooks except last night's Dallas Cowboys win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The trend for Super Wild Card weekend was clear: Points, points, points.

The winners of each game this weekend had the following scores: 41, 31, 34, 31, 24, and 31.  So aside from the usual AFC North heavy weight defensive battle we always see out of teams like Cincinnati and Baltimore, 31 points was the barometer.  

Herein lies the problem for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  In 17 regular season games this year, the Steelers scored 30 just points one time.  And they never scored 31.  Not great for Steelers Offensive Coordinator, Matt Canada.

Now, some may immediately argue in favor of Canada, though those people are decreasing rapidly, that the Steelers don't have the weapons these other teams have.  The Seahawks and 49ers matchup featured Geno Smith and Brock Purdy.  The Miami Dolphins were starting Skylar Thompson under center who was throwing to a clearly injured Jaylen Waddle.  And even though the Ravens had one of the lowest point totals of the weekend with 17 points, their offense led by Tyler Huntley gained 364 total yards against a very good Bengals defense.  And I don't expect to see offenses slow down next week when Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts are included in the Divisional Round.  If anything, it will take even more points to win and move on.  

Plus, the Steelers are not without weapons themselves.  In fact, just look at the last two drafts.  In 2021, the Steelers selected two offensive skill players in the first two rounds.  They selected running back Najee Harris in the 1st round and tight-end Pat Freiermuth in the 2nd round.  The Steelers followed that up with two offensive linemen in the 3rd and 4th rounds.  The focus was clearly on building up the offense.

Then in the most 2022 recent draft, the Steelers continued adding to the offense with quarterback Kenny Pickett in the 1st round and wide receiver George Pickens in the 2nd round.  They also added Calvin Austin III in the 4th round and tight end Connor Heyward in the 6th round.  So the Steelers came into this season with all of these new offensive weapons, plus Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool who already headlined the Steelers offensive skill positions.  The Steelers also got great production out of undrafted free agent running back Jaylen Warren.

Now, Claypool was eventually traded and Johnson is known for dropping passes in critical times, but it doesn't disprove my point.  The Steelers have as many weapons on the offensive side of the ball as at least half of the teams in the NFL.  One thing, however, is mightily holding the Steelers back: Matt Canada.  

See, what people may not know about Matt Canada is that he failed upward.  He was let go in 2015 by NC State before being brought on as the offensive coordinator at Pitt in 2016.  There he rode the coattails of James Conner to "earn" him a job at LSU.  He was so bad at LSU, they fired him after one season.  Canada then found himself at Maryland in 2018 where the Terrapins failed to qualify for a bowl.  He then somehow got a job as the quarterbacks coach for the Steelers in 2020, and then was promoted to offensive coordinator in January 2021.  

In 2021, the Steelers finished 21st in the NFL with 20.2 points per game.  They also ranked 23rd in total yards, 29th in Net Yards Gained per Passing Attempt (Passing Yards - Sack Yards/(Passes Attempted + Times Sacked), and 28th in Rushing yards per attempt.  They also ranked 28th in the NFL in Yards Per Offensive Play with just 4.8.  By all quantifiable figures, the Steelers offense was well below average.

Unfortunately, the offense wasn't any better in 2022.  The Steelers scored even less points per game at 18.1.  They also stayed at 23rd in total yards.  They slightly jumped to 26th in Net Yards Gained Per Passing Attempt and 26th in Rushing Yards per attempt.  They also finished 27th in the NFL in Yards Per Offensive Play, this year logging 4.9 yards in the stat.  So, again, by all quantifiable figures they were not much better.  

In a league that is becoming more offensive, the Steelers are falling mightily behind.  And those at the top of the organization are paid handsome sums of money to assign responsibility when things are going wrong.  In this case, even though I'm paid nothing to assign responsibility, I can't help but blame Matt Canada.  He is the coordinator of a unit that isn't performing and something has to change.

You're not going to fire Mike Tomlin.  You shouldn't replace Najee Harris, Kenny Pickett, Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, George Pickens, or Jaylen Warren.  So the one change left to make is a new face at coordinator.  Canada just isn't getting the job done.  Which isn't surprising since, as I showed, he failed his way upward.  A change needs to be made, and there's an easy one on the table.