The Pittsburgh Steelers second year offensive coordinator Matt Canada consented to an exclusive interview with 93.7 The Fan and the audio was shared via the PM Team W/Poni & Mueller this afternoon. The popular Pittsburgh sports radio program was broadcasting live from Mike’s Beer Bar which is located across the street from PNC park. Andrew Fillipponi has been extremely critical of Canada in the past, and was almost gleeful that he agreed to speak with the radio station’s award winning reporter and weekend radio host Jeff Hathhorn who caught up with the coordinator in an exclusive interview.
“We look at the way they respond to our team to start with,” Canada responded when asked how they evaluate the quarterbacks on the roster, “I think accuracy is a big deal, leadership is a big deal. It’s a great question but a challenging question. What makes a great quarterback? He has the It factor.”
Hathhorn, who won three AP awards for best sportscast in Pennsylvania, asked the Steelers assistant coach about the evaluation process and Canada toed the company line set by Mike Tomlin in his first training camp press conference about not micromanaging the process.
“There is urgency in everything we do. Every rep matters, everything does matter. We don’t want to minimize that, but it is a big picture decision. One great play or one bad play isn’t going to set the depth chart.”
The Steelers are in a unique position with three quarterbacks vying to become the leader of the football team and Tomlin has impressed upon Canada, the coaching staff, and the media that the process has to play out. The Steelers offensive coordinator seems committed to a fair process but admits that how they perform against other teams will be a huge factor in how they evaluate the trio.
“The beauty of having preseason games is we get to see them in “game” situation. We got a couple of guys who have played in games and obviously Kenny (Pickett) is very talented. We look at those three and they all have high resumes. Playing with this team this year, with the talent we got, I think we will get into those situations and watch them play.”
Fillipponi who is a huge fan of Pickett and takes to his Twitter account @theponiexpress in what seems like hourly intervals to advocate for the rookie signal caller, sometimes forgets that Pickett has little chance of passing Mitch Trubisky or Mason Rudolph in shorts. His best opportunities will come when the team dons pads next week and in the preseason games. A veteran quarterback who cedes to a rookie in shorts has bigger things to worry about than the starting quarterback job.
Canada who is entering his second season as the offensive coordinator of the Steelers, broke down his three signal callers for Hatthorn and his impressions thus far. He started out with his thoughts on the Steelers free agent pickup Trubisky.
“I really enjoy him as a person. He is a very much a student of the game. He has great questions, great input. He’s got a great way with the players. He seems very comfortable with leaderships skills and the way he goes about it. He’s a fun guy to be around and I think the players have responded very well to him.”
Trubisky, the former second overall pick in the 2017 draft is entering his sixth season in the NFL and the Steelers represent his second and maybe last chance to prove he is a starting quarterback in the NFL. He has made 1 Pro Bowl as a starter and quarterbacked the Chicago Bears to two playoff appearances in his four seasons with the team. Canada then turned his attention to the incumbent Steelers quarterback on the roster.
“So, Mason’s getting the second reps right now, almost equal maybe slightly less than Mitch. He has been given a very fair shot to this point. Mason has played very well at times. He’s got a great shot at it.”
Since training camp began Rudolph has been getting tremendous reviews on his performance. It could be that early in the process his familiarity with Canada’s offense is giving him a leg up over Trubisky and Pickett or he could have made a giant leap forward, knowing his NFL future is on the line. Finally, Canada turned his attention to the former Pitt Panther Pickett, and he seemed enthralled with the possibilities the rookie presents for the team. Canada relayed to the veteran reporter Hathhorn his thoughts on Pickett:
“Super talented, super great guy, ultra-competitive. I enjoyed him since he was 17-18 years old when I was recruiting him. He has good plays and bad plays just like Mitch and Mason have. I do think his desire to learn, his leadership skills and how he does it is a little bit different than the other two. Even as a rookie he has his way of getting with guys and players are responding to him.”
Canada seems a little more effusive with his praise for Pickett and he may very well feel that the newcomer to the NFL has the It factor that the Steelers are looking for to lead the team forward from the Ben Roethlisberger era. The typical rule of thumb when replacing a legend is you do not want to be the guy who follows him. You want to be the one who follows the guy who replaces him. Steelers fans have a high standard for quarterback play and booed everyone from Kordell Stewart all the way back to Terry Bradshaw mercilessly. In the Steelers Hall of Famers case, they booed until Bradshaw won multiple Super Bowls.
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What do you think Steeler Nation? Who do you favor in the Steelers quarterback battle? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.