Mike Tomlin made the move that fans in Pittsburgh had been clamoring for for months — if not longer, firing Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada, early Tuesday morning.
Canada's departure shouldn't come as much of a surprise, especially given Pittsburgh's epic struggles executing the vertical passing game in recent weeks, predictable play-calling, and a rather stunning regression from second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett.
As ESPN's Adam Schefter points out, Canada's dismissal is the first time since 1941 that the Steelers have fired an offensive coordinator midseason.
History today in Pittsburgh: When the Steelers fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada today, it marked the first time they have made an in-season coaching change since 1941, per @PaulHembo.
The last time the Steelers fired a head coach/coordinator midseason was 1941, when the? pic.twitter.com/hsi1T1AvdS
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 21, 2023
"Matt Canada has been relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator. I appreciate Matt's hard work and dedication and I wish him the best moving forward in his career," Tomlin said, in a statement released by the Steelers announcing the move.
This season, Pittsburgh's offense has been downright dreadful.
Through the Steelers' first are averaging just 16.6 points per game, only 280.1 yards per game — fourth-lowest in the entire league, as Pickett has passed for just 1,722 yards with six touchdowns to four interceptions.
After being selected in the first-round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Steelers simply need more out of Pickett. Especially given the presence of playmaking wide receiver George Pickens in his supporting cast.
Pickett currently ranks 25th in passing yards, 28th in passing touchdowns, and his 79.2 quarterback rating ranks 27th among qualified passers.
Things became untenable for Canada after the Steelers fell to the Browns on Sunday afternoon, with Cleveland being led by rookie backup quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, 13-10, on an afternoon that Pittsburgh managed just 77 passing yards.
Beginning with Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Steelers quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan and running backs coach Eddie Faulkner will serve as the Steelers' interim offensive coordinators.
Following Canada's dismissal, here's a look at five potential candidates Tomlin and the Steelers could hire as Pittsburgh's next offensive coordinator:
Phil Longo, Wisconsin Offensive Coordinator
There aren't many college offensive coordinators or quarterback coaches with a stronger recent portfolio of NFL quarterbacks that they have developed than Longo's. As 247Sports points out, Longo was instrumental in Drake Maye's rise to prominence — and a 4,115-passing yard 2022 campaign, and helped get Sam Howell drafted by Washington. If the Steelers are looking to make a hire based upon importing a quarterback-friendly system, led by a coordinator with a track record for developing young passers, Longo might be the best possible pairing for Pickett.
Byron Leftwich, Former Tampa Bay Offensive Coordinator
The Buccaneers passed over Byron Leftwich as Bruce Arians' successor, and the Jaguars opted for Doug Pederson over Leftwich as their next head coach. Still, Leftwich's experience as Bruce Arians' offensive coordinator was a productive one, and he worked alongside one of the NFL's foremost quarterback gurus and developers. The fact that Leftwich played for Tomlin could make this an easy call, and the pair would certainly have a strong working knowledge for how each other view the quarterback position.
Mike Sullivan, Steelers QB Coach, Interim Offensive Coordinator
Sullivan will get the opportunity to audition for the role as full-time offensive coordinator, while splitting the duties with running backs coach Eddie Faulkner. And if Pittsburgh is hoping for some continuity with Pickett, he'd be an obvious choice for Tomlin. CBS Sports' Josina Anderson reports that Sullivan will handle play-calling, so it will be fascinating to see how Pittsburgh's offense evolves, especially given his likely intimate familiarity with the plays and concepts that Pickett is most comfortable with.
Frank Reich, Carolina Panthers Head Coach
Reich is admittedly a wild card candidate for this role. However, there might not be a coach in the entire league facing more pressure, or sitting on a hotter hot-seat as the season barrels towards a conclusion than Reich. Some of the bloom might be off the rose when it comes to Reich as a quarterback whisperer, given the colossal struggles Bryce Young is going through as a rookie. But, Tomlin does seem to value veteran assistant coaches, and if Reich winds up getting fired by the Panthers, could be a darkhorse name to watch.
Garrett Riley, Clemson Offensive Coordinator
Garrett Riley is a rising star among the college coaching ranks, and has worked in some of the most successful programs the sport has seen in recent years. Riley played a key role in Max Duggan's development at TCU, and now is working alongside Dabo Swinney, at Clemson. If Tomlin is looking for a young coach, who speaks Pickett's language, Riley could be a name to keep an eye on.
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