Pat Freiermuth Speaks Candidly About Matt Canada's Offense

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This week, Pittsburgh Steelers' tight end Pat Freiermuth was the guest on former Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's "Footbahlin" podcast.  The appearance made waves for what he had to say about this past season's offense comparatively to the offense he was a part of when Roethlisberger was his quarterback.  Unfortunately, it only reaffirms the negativity most fans had towards the offense implemented by offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

On the podcast, Freiermuth said "It's so different because we didn't have hots.  With you (Roethlisberger), how many times did we have a concept, and you looked (at Diontae Johnson) and gave a signal, and it'd be a 12-yard completion.  We didn't have that this year."

For those unfamiliar with the football lingo, or those who didn't play Madden growing up, a "hot" is a hot route, or an adjustment the quarterback makes at the line of scrimmage once he reads the defense.  It signals to the receiver to run a different route than the one that was intended in the initial play call.  When you see the quarterback giving random hand signals to the different receivers pre-snap, this is typically what those signify.

This is something we saw a lot from Roethlisberger during his time in the league, especially towards the end of his career.  And over those years, it was a big part of the offense's success.  Reading the defense pre-snap is a large part of the quarterback's responsibilities.  

With Kenny Pickett taking over that role, it could be understandable to see very few of these in his first few games at the helm.  After all, reading the defense is one of the major stepping stones when transitioning from the college level to the NFL, so it can be a difficult adjustment for most rookie quarterbacks.  But to eliminate hot routes from the offense altogether is just silly.

This helps explain why we saw the Steelers' offense struggle this season.  Receivers were just walking up to the line of scrimmage with the route they were supposed to run and no chance of deviation from that, regardless of what the defensive scheme was.  From the way Freiermuth talks in the podcast, oftentimes they were running routes that they knew were doomed from the start.  

It highlights what we, the fans, thought from just watching the games, that certain receivers seemed to just be running the same routes over and over again all game long.  And given the offense's failures this past season, it certainly wasn't a successful methodology.  This could also very much explain why we saw this offense succeed late in games when they were running a 2-minute drill, freestyle type of offense.  They had the opportunity to adjust on the fly, unlike the play calling leading up to that.

There were many knocks against Canada and his offensive-coordinating style leading up to this news.  If this is indeed true, this is just another one going against him.  It's one thing to let your rookie quarterback ease into the starting quarterback role, but it's a completely different thing to limit him, and the offense as a whole, for the entirety of the season.

While many teams in the AFC have made coaching changes so far this offseason, the Steelers opted against doing so and Canada will remain the offensive coordinator next season.  I guess the Steelers can only go up offensively next season but it's hard to put my trust in someone who proved so little this past season.  And furthermore, this truth-bomb from Freiermuth only adds more reasoning why fans never trusted him from the beginning.