PITTSBURGH — It has been a little more than a week since the Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs, and yet no news on the future of the team’s coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Matt Canada, has emerged from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
It turns out there is a reason for the delay.
Decisions about the staff have been put on hold, according to two members of the organization who were not authorized to speak publicly, because head coach Mike Tomlin has been tending to a personal matter. Player exit meetings, which are expected to begin this week, will be conducted virtually for those who have left town since the end of the season, one person said.
Historically, Tomlin would have exit meetings with all players not long after the season ended and then make any staff changes not long after that. Tomlin hinted during his final news conference last week that he was going to take his time evaluating his team after the Steelers finished with seven wins in their last nine games and narrowly missed the playoffs.
The Steelers’ offense showed growth, but will it be enough to save Matt Canada’s job?
Canada has been in the Steelers’ facility both last week and this week, according to another team employee. The evaluation of the coaching staff could begin sooner rather than later.
#Steelers have been silent on the Matt Canada fired/coming back front since the season ended. Actually, deafeningly silent. However, I was told that he was in the facility as recently as TODAY. You can read into that a number of different ways but right now, info is limited.
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) January 13, 2023
It has been rare that Tomlin’s coaching staff has remained intact from year to year. The last time it did was following the 2016 season. Tomlin held onto his original staff for the first three years of his career but has since had 27 assistant coaches either be fired, retire or not have their contracts renewed.
With a small staff and the same head coach for 16 seasons, that’s a relatively high turnover from year to year.
Canada could be the next one to join that list.
The much-maligned coordinator is still under contract for one more season and the Steelers typically balk at firing coaches. Speaking last week, Tomlin credited Canada for making improvements but fell short of welcoming him back.
“I thought he got better just like our team got better,” Tomlin said. “I’m not going to speculate about him or anyone as I stand here today. … I’m just not there. We have some work to do, but largely I thought he got better in the ways that we got better, so it was encouraging.”
The evaluation of Canada is a tricky one for Tomlin.
The offense struggled with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett for the first half of the season but looked better in the second half. There is always the fear of setting Pickett back by changing systems, or if Canada returns and the offense remains conservative like it did this past year.
Steelers 2022 grades: Kenny Pickett, entire offense must be judged on a curve
via @TheAthletic https://t.co/CLTngaOmGi
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) January 12, 2023
In 13 of 17 games, the Steelers gained more than 300 yards, but they scored 30 points only once and at least 20 points just eight times. In 34 games under Canada, the Steelers have scored 30 points or more only twice.
It is unknown when Tomlin will start the evaluation of his coaching staff, but there is time.
Five head-coaching jobs and six offensive coordinator positions on teams that don’t need new head coaches remain open across the league, which could limit candidates to choose from if Tomlin decides to replace Canada. Per reports, Kliff Kingsbury is not interested in coaching this year, and Jim Caldwell is seeking only head-coaching opportunities.
Names like Frank Reich, Nathaniel Hackett, Joe Brady, Mark Whipple, Brian Johnson and Byron Leftwich (if he is fired in Tampa Bay) have been floated out there for the Steelers. In-house candidates to replace Canada if the organization decided to make a move include running back coach Eddie Faulkner and quarterback coach Mike Sullivan.
(Photo: Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)