With the Steelers' offense unable to find a spark, Pittsburgh finally pulled the plug on the Matt Canada experience.
The Steelers officially fired Canada on Tuesday after just over two and a half seasons as offensive coordinator.
"I did not come to this decision lightly," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday, per ESPN.com. "It's my role to absorb and protect those that I work with. This doesn't feel like that. I'm not assigning blame or deflecting in any way. ... Just rest assured that this decision was not taken lightly. I've got a lot of respect for Matt personally and professionally."
Steelers quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan and running backs coach Eddie Faulkner will share the coordinator duties in the wake of Canada's firing, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero reported. Faulkner is expected to take over as interim OC, and Sullivan, who has previous coordinator experience with the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will handle the play-calling.
Tomlin confirmed Tuesday that Faulker and Sullivan would share OC duties and that Canada's firing his call.
"It was mine and mine alone," Tomlin told reporters.
Canada joined the Steelers as quarterbacks coach in 2020 and was elevated to OC in 2021, replacing Randy Fichtner. A long-time college offensive coordinator, Canada was expected to modernize Pittsburgh's offense, utilizing motions and updating the passing operation. Instead, the Steelers got a knockoff scheme that lacked any semblance of cohesion, rarely pressured the defense deep and lacked consistency across the board.
In 44 games as the OC, the Steelers never ranked better than 23rd in yards and 21st in points under Canada. In 2023, Pittsburgh currently ranks 28th in yards and points. The passing game with Kenny Pickett under center has been particularly brutal, with Pittsburgh ranking 31st in yards and 31st in TDs in 2023 (finished 32nd in TD passes last season).
The Steelers have generated fewer than 400 total yards in 58 straight contests, including the entirety of Canada's run a play-caller.
Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns was also brutal. The Steelers generated 64 total yards, including 15 net pass yards, in the first half -- the second time the Steelers had zero points and fewer than 70 total yards in the first half of a game this season. For the game, Pittsburgh generated 77 net passing yards, the fewest since Devlin Hodges was under center in Week 17, 2019.
"There's a lot of layers to it," Tomlin said of the timing of his decision to move on from Canada. "Our most recent performance is a component of it. I just think you know when you're there to be blunt and short about the answer. Again, not saying that flippantly not taking the situation lightly at all. But just having been in the role that I've been in for some time you just know when you're there. A totality of a myriad of variables."
In the offseason, the Steelers stuck with Canada despite obvious struggles on offense, believing the continuity would be good for Pickett as a growing QB. That faith has been washed away as the young quarterback has struggled badly through 10 games of his second season.
Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday that Pickett remained the team's starting QB -- Mitchell Trubisky currently is the backup -- and that his faith in the second-year QB remains strong.
"Because I work with him every day," Tomlin said. "I've been really transparent with you guys about him and his willingness to work and my experience and what that tells me. This guy will do any and everything. He works extremely hard. … There's such a thing as football justice. Those guys usually get what they're looking for. That's why I remain consistently optimistic about the trajectory of his growth and development."
Caranda's firing is one Steelers fans have called for over a year. Tomlin had resisted a change at every turn, backing his OC repeatedly and brushing aside criticism. Ultimately, the moribund offense was too much to ignore as a potential playoff season could slip away.
Pittsburgh sits at 6-4, No. 7 in the AFC, despite a -29 point differential, joining Seattle, -2, as the only two teams in 2023 with winning records and a negative point differential through Week 11.