The Pistol offense would be perfect for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada (left) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada (left) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Matt Canada is going to have to find a way to make the Steelers more creative while pleasing his quarterback. Here’s why the Pistol offense could work. 

The Steelers need to scrap everything they did over the past six games of the 2020 season. Matt Canada had his fingerprints on the offense early, as the Steelers ran pre-snap motion and play-action to begin the season. However, these things gradually went away as the year pressed on.

Pittsburgh was the most predictable team out of shotgun last year, and that almost always meant they were going to pass the ball. Randy Fichtner’s offense lacked creativity in a bad way, and that must change in 2021 if the Steelers are going to have success.

While Canada now holds the key to the playbook, he also expressed that he wants Ben Roethlisberger to have plays of his own that he is comfortable with. Ben was very vocal last season that he wasn’t a fan of play-action, pre-snap motion, or anything that caused him to turn his back to the defense.

Though my preference would be for Canada to install his complete plan for the offense from the gate, I understand the importance of keeping your quarterback happy and getting him in situations he is comfortable with. Because of this, the Pistol offense might just be the way to go for the Steelers.

Why Steelers must use the Pistol offense in 2021

If you are unfamiliar with this formation, the Pistol offense is when the quarterback is not under center; rather in a mini shotgun formation with a halfback behind him. Think “I” formation without Ben having to be under center.

This would give the Steelers a variety of options and still allow Matt Canada to work his magic on offense. In the Pistol, the Steelers could constantly send receivers in pre-snap motion across Roethlisberger’s face in an effort to keep the defense guessing. On occasion, the ball could be pop-passed to the receiver on an end-around.

The Pistol is also typically a better formation to run the football from then shotgun. Because it’s a variation of the “I” formation, running backs can get a head of steam instead of receiving the handoff standing still.

Perhaps most importantly, the Steelers would be able to run much more play-action without forcing Roethlisberger under center or to turn his back to the defense. In fact, they could even dial up some “read-option” in certain packages where Ben could have the option to pull the ball out and hit an open receiver instead of handing it to the back.

Former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson did this often with Carson Wentz and Nick Foles in 2017 – the year they won the Super Bowl. In this season, Wentz and Foles combined for 38 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as the Eagles led the NFL in scoring with 29.0 points per game.

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The Steelers are going to need to get much more creative this season if they are going to have a chance to be successful, and the Pistol offense could be the perfect balance between what Matt Canada wants to do and what Ben Roethlisberger would be willing to do. I hope they consider running this often in 2021.