Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has never fired an assistant coach in the middle of a season.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s unit performed so poorly that Tomlin had no choice. After all, Pittsburgh (6-4) is just 1.5 games behind first-place Baltimore (8-3) and amid the AFC wild-card race.
The Steelers don’t play this week, making it a good time to elevate quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan or assistant Glenn Thomas to play-caller.
“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 Tuesday morning.
Canada had lost the players’ confidence.
Running back Najee Harris ripped the offense after Sunday’s 13-10 loss to Cleveland.
“You can look at it two ways,” Harris said to reporters. “You can look at the record and say, ‘OK, we’re still good right now.’ Or you can look at the record and be like, ‘If we keep playing this type of football, how long is that [expletive] going to last?
“I look at it like, ‘How long is that [expletive] going to last? Y’all can look at it like it’s a good record, but it’s the NFL. Winning how we did is not going to get us anywhere.”
“There’s a lot of stuff that goes around that you guys don’t see. I’m at a point where I’m just tired of this [expletive].”
A week earlier, receiver Diontae Johnson complained so vigorously on the sideline that he reportedly had to be separated from an assistant coach. Then, he had an intense conversation with Tomlin on the sideline.
A few weeks earlier, receiver George Pickens scrubbed his IG account of Steelers-related content and posted “free me” after a couple of games with minimal production.
And don’t forget right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor getting benched for something he said during a loss to Jacksonville last month.
That’s a lot of drama from a team that’s typically free from distractions. We’re talking about an organization that’s only had three head coaches in the last seven decades.
The drama stems from a unit that has underperformed all season under Canada, who was in his third season with Pittsburgh.
Canada’s unit has never performed well.
The Steelers never ranked higher than 21st in points or 23rd in yards under Canada.
This year, Pittsburgh ranked 28th in total offense (280.1), 28th in yards per play (4.73), and 28th in points (16.6).
Quarterback Kenny Pickett, a first-round pick in 2022, is averaging just 191.3 yards passing per game with six touchdowns and four interceptions and a passer rating of 79.2, which ranks 27th.
Pickens ranks 29th among receivers with 37 receptions for 604 yards and three touchdowns. Harris ranks 23rd among running backs with 499 yards and a 3.9 average.
The offense bottomed out against Cleveland, gaining just 249 yards and getting 12 first downs.
Pickett passed for just 106 yards, and Harris gained 35 yards on 12 carries. Jaylen Warren had 129 yards, but 74 came on a touchdown run.
“It seemed like every time I got it, the defense was playing to minimize my role,” Harris said. “It seemed like every time I got it coming out of the second half, I couldn’t get anything going. Luckily, Jaylen got going. They were sitting on screens. They were blowing stuff up in the run game. I couldn’t get anything going.”
“Is it fixable? Yeah,” Harris said. “Are we going to fix it? [Expletive].
“I just don’t know what to do. I just feel like I’m stuck in this situation where I don’t have an answer to it.”
Neither did Canada, and it cost him his job.