The Pittsburgh Steelers will meet the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Acrisure Stadium. The 2022 Steelers are on life support and if any magic is going to happen it has to start when the Steelers touch the ball against a stout New Orleans defense. Matt Canada has had two weeks to draw up a game plan that will work and for the good of the mental health of Steeler Nation, it must.
“Jaylen has been explosive, you look at what he’s done when he’s been on the field,” Canada said during his weekly address to the media on Thursday. “He is writing his own script, coming from where he started and where he is now. He’s elevated and we will continue to use him. We have got to get the ball to the guys who are making plays.”
There has been a lot of speculation about Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris during the week. Warren has been impressive physically since the first day of contact practice in Latrobe, PA. He has steadily flashed throughout the season and the inference is that it may translate to more touches on Sunday for the undrafted free agent. Warren has shown burst, and it will be interesting to see if he does get an extended look at the beginning of the game against the Saints.
“I think Najee is in a good spot. He’s healthy, feeling good,” Canada continued. “Everybody has got to do their job. Najee can improve, and he sees that. All he can do is what he can do.”
The Steelers selected Harris in the first round last season as the new bell cow back in Pittsburgh. With Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, he demonstrated that he had ability but still averaged less than four yards per carry when rushing the ball. He was a huge weapon in the passing game last season and has almost been nonexistent in that capacity in 2022. Canada seems to be hinting that Harris is playing to his ability which should set off alarm bells that the offensive coordinator may think they missed on the second-year pro.
“Look at other really great quarterbacks in the history of the NFL and they didn’t have good rookie stat lines,” Canada said in regard to Kenny Pickett. “That is not where we are at, we gotta win football games. He knows that. He’s an unbelievably competitive guy. I think Kenny is going to have a tremendous second half of the season.”
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Canada is showing a great deal of faith in two rookies who got limited work in the spring when training camp opened but earned more and more playing time as the preseason progressed. It is interesting how he refers to the rookies as coming on versus the person that Mike Tomlin anointed as the leader of the offense. Canada seems to be indicating, and it may not be on purpose, that Harris is just a guy.
“We are ready to go the second half of the year, there are a lot of things we have got to do better,” Canada concluded. “We have to execute a higher level at those key times for plays to occur. There are opportunities that are there, we have to make them. We can talk about the rookie quarterback or reps in camp, nobody cares. We have to find a way to score more points.”
Canada owes his continued employment to Tomlin, or so observers thought. Could someone else be protecting the embattled OC, and if so why? Based on the statement at the end, as fans we have to wonder did a massive finger-pointing session take place behind the scenes. Canada seems to favor Warren and Pickett and may have from the start. Calling back to training camp reps seems like a shot at the head coach for forcing him to play Mitch Trubisky over Pickett.
The merits of playing Trubisky over Pickett have been exhausted, but it is a viable question whether the coordinator’s lack of faith led to him throwing out a no-audible rule. The rumor has gone away but Trubisky insisted he was not allowed to check out of plays before going silent on the bench. His silence should not be confused with an endorsement of the company line, but if his career is now that of a backup quarterback, it pays to keep your mouth shut.
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Canada seems to be indicating that there is a line between him and Tomlin as far as the offense and the blame goes. It is either a weasel move to throw your boss under the bus in hopes that you can still get an NFL job, or it is copious interference in the offense by a head coach who does not trust assistants. Omar Khan or Art Rooney II have to get in the middle if they aren’t already and decide which it is. Either way, the general manager and owner are going to give the head coach an opportunity to solve the problem first.
What do you think Steeler Nation? Is Canada trying to deflect blame onto Tomlin because of personnel decisions or is it too little too late? Comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.