Steelers change of scenery for Matt Canada appears to have opened his eyes

Matt Canada could be opening up the playbook a bit after the Pittsburgh Steelers offense has largely marginalized their No. 1 wide receiver George Pickens, who has voiced his frustrations.
Matt Canada, Pittsburgh Steelers
Matt Canada, Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Fresh off their mini-bye week following the Thursday night win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Pittsburgh Steelers are moving full-steam ahead into the second half of their season. Although they got the W on Nov. 2, that victory was mired by wide receiver George Pickens voicing his frustrations on social media after the game. He said it was a non-issue, but others disagreed with him.

Running back Najee Harris and wide receiver Diontae Johnson talked about it to the media. So did head coach Mike Tomlin, who called it "a pebble in [his] shoe"... The Steelers may be more about locker room drama than winning Super Bowls these days, but this perfectly timed moment of reflection could conceivably be the impetus of self-inflicted adversity these Tomlin Steelers thrive on.

One person who may be getting a clue about what is going on is the Steelers' much-maligned offensive coordinator Matt Canada. He does not want to put starting quarterback Kenny Pickett in less-than-advantageous passing situations, but he seems to understand that he needs to do a better job of getting Pickens the football. He is their No. 1 wide receiver but has not played like it at all this season.

Canada did say he and Pickens have a good rapport, and that he loves Pickens' love for the game.

“Me and George get along great. I think George loves football. He loves to play. He wants to win. We talked — me being on the sideline, I talked to George after every series. George was happy we were playing well, wanting to win."

Pickens may want the ball, but this might say more about Pickett and Canada than it does him here.

“Obviously, he wants to — he’s a super talent. He wants the ball. Everybody who plays football at a skill position wants the ball, and they want the ball more. I don’t think you’d find anybody anywhere that doesn’t. We’re in a great spot with that. We’ll continue to go, continue to find ways to win.”

One thing Pickens is dealing with in his second season out of Georgia is him getting double-teamed.

“Obviously, GP is an unbelievable talent, has had some great games this year and has drawn a lot of attention. If you look at the attention he’s drawn the last couple weeks, especially on Thursday, what happened? The run game opened up. Why? Because there’s two guys on George almost every play. Diontae [Johnson], again, had another big night because there’s two guys on George."

Thankfully, Canada no longer wants Pickens to "just be minimized completely" in the passing game.

“We can’t let him just be minimized completely. That’s a balance there. We understand both sides of that.”

As with anything regarding the Steelers, there is so much to unpack here with their latest drama...

Matt Canada actually wants to get the ball in George Pickens' hands more

Look. I am not going to bury Canada in this. Yes, he is a problem, but he is only a constraint for this team, and not the bottleneck. Oh, you better believe he will be scapegoated if the Steelers were to miss out on the AFC playoffs, or god forbid, win fewer than nine games this season to have a losing record. Tomlin would absolutely lose his collective s**t if that were to ever happen. So buckle up, y'all!

To me, for whatever reason, Tomlin has had a hard time retaining great offensive coaches ever since Bruce Arians left the organization well over a decade ago. This may have a lot to do with Ben Roethlisberger, but again, Tomlin is the only common thread in all this besides ownership, obviously. Canada is operating at his apex as a coordinator. He is what he is, but what he is is not good enough.

I think you compound this with Pickett being a massively low-ceilinged NFL starting quarterback, and the never-ending blame game in Pittsburgh gets more interesting. Simply put, if Pickett were better, he would find a way to rifle the pigskin to Pickens far more easily. Canada may be calling plays to protect a most lucrative asset, but it feels like a depreciating one with better, younger quarterbacks.

Overall, I think if the Steelers fail to make the playoffs and are picking somewhere in the Top 16, they should consider looking at replacing Pickett, especially if this team is picking in the Top 12 after suffering an ultra-rare losing season for Steelers standards. Quarterback draft prospects like Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. could be had in that range. Both of them have higher NFL ceilings than Pickett.

Canada, Pickens and Tomlin must all take ownership, but Pickett's low ceiling holds this team back.

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