Never again let it be said that the Rooney family, owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers, are loyal to a fault. It’s easy to see how many fans of the Black & Yellow, and national observers of the franchise, have developed that opinion in recent years.
The Steelers, tied for the NFL record for most Super Bowl wins, are now mired in their longest streak of playoff futility since before their 1970s dynasty. Their offense hasn’t scored more than 300 yards or more than 30 points since before Ben Roethlisberger hung up his clutches two years ago. Their fans, a nation of spoiled brats yinzers accustomed to constantly battling Lombardis, has fallen into disaffection – with chants to fire embattled offensive coordinator Matt Canada. At Pittsburgh Penguins home games. At Penguins road games. At Pat McAfee broadcasts. . . in Utah. Literally everywhere.
Today, those fans got their pound of flesh when the Steelers canned Canada and handed the architect of their shaky, shaky offense his walking papers just two days before Thanksgiving — and less than a week after an ugly loss to their hated rivals, the Cleveland Browns.
Happy Holidays, Matt!
That the Steelers are 6-4 and currently in possession of a theoretical wild-card spot is something of a Thanksgiving miracle, as under Canada’s system they have trailed in the fourth quarter of each of their wins and won in the distance is. by every opposing offense they have faced this season. The Steelers have scored fewer total points than their opponents through 11 games and somehow still have a winning record.
Perhaps the only things more miraculous is that Canada has managed to hold on to his job this long – after wasting the final season of Roethlisberger’s career along with the first year and a half of Kenny Pickett’s – or the fact that the Steelers actually fired him mid-season. The Steelers may be the only franchise in all of American team sports OK with at least the appearance of valuing organizational loyalty and stability as much as winning. They have only had three head coaches since hiring Chuck Noll in 1969. Roethlisberger was under center from 2004 to 2021. According to ESPN, leather helmets were still an innovation the last time they fired a coach in the season.
But in the 1940s, the Steelers were still a laughing stock, not respected as one of the historical best in the NFL. Today they have a young QB in Pickett whose questionable play through a year and a half suggests the team either made a colossal mistake using the 20th overall pick to draft him or they couldn’t afford him in the hands of a coordinator for whom jet sweep was a commandment and forward passes beyond 20 yards or between the hashes were forbidden.
“The improvements weren’t quick enough or consistent enough for us to continue,” head coach Mike Tomlin said his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. “You’ve got to score touchdowns in this business, you’ve got to win games in this business and just the entirety of that got us where we are today.”
But that wasn’t the most important thing Tomlin said.
“It is my role to absorb and protect those I work with. And it doesn’t feel like it. Obviously, I’m not interested in helping or deflecting blame in any way,” Tomlin said.
If you’re not familiar with Tomlinspeak or haven’t been listening closely enough, you might have missed what he was really saying there: “Matt, I’ve protected you long enough and this seat is getting a little too hot. Something had to give, and it would be you before it was me.”
Where the Steelers are now, without Canada, they have been delivered on the edge of clarity. They can keep their slim playoff spot or forfeit it with a losing streak in the back half of the season. Either way, they freed Pickett and the offense from any excuses associated with a reckless coordinator incapable of scripting a game worth watching on Sunday afternoons. Now, if Pickett and WR Deontay Johnson can’t get the same on deep routes, if alien receiver George Pickens still wants to be freed from this offense or if former first-round pick Najee Harris thinks the offense is too predictablethey will know exactly where to look, and it won’t be at Canada.
And if Pickett doesn’t get it right now, the Steelers may look back to the draft for his replacement.