Welcome to another edition of a new column series here on Still Curtain: The Steelers Why. Football is an emotional game. As the season ebbs and flows, those emotions unravel the story written by the team. The triumph of victory or the sour taste of defeat, each contest makes its own impact on the team, determining why the Steelers are where they are, why the Steelers are playing as they are, and why there should be hope, or panic, on the horizon for the Black and Gold's fanbase.
Well, that light at the end of the tunnel was indeed a freight train.
Mike Tomlin's Tuesday press conference left a bit to be desired, even if it wasn't necessarily surprising given where the season is at this juncture.
There aren't enough Tomlinisms to paint a prettier picture for this Steelers football team. This team is slap ugly, and it's primarily because of one man. Matt Canada.
I've seen the Steelers fans on X (that's never going to be normal for me either) raving about how Art Rooney II and Tomlin are complicit in the problems. They aren't wrong. I'm a Tomlin defender and I admire the culture of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise from the top down, so I personally cannot give them the bulk of the blame and start calling for Tomlin's head. Maybe I'm naive.
After all, it is they who signed off on not only hiring Matt Canada but also promoting him to one of the most important jobs in coaching without a shred of prior success. And despite Tomlin calling for changes after Sunday's horrendous defeat to the Houston Texans, Canada isn't getting fired this week.
While Rooney and Tomlin aren't without blame, they did what any respectable employer does: they hired a candidate they knew and trusted and believed in him to be successful in his position. The problem is, Canada has been abysmal far from successful.
We've all heard the ridiculous stats and watched the ugliness unfold. We've heard Canada shrug off any blame for his offense's egregious shortcomings.
I believe the worst example of Canada's ineptitude is revealing his belief to Sunday's commentary team that his offensive unit isn't built to come back from large leads. That's not the surprising statement. No, the surprising statement is that he stressed the Steelers need to start fast for the offense to work.
The offense hasn't started fast since Randy Fichtner was the coordinator, Matt. That means the offense is incapable of working, Matt.
Under Canada, the first-half offense has somehow actually gotten worse. The Steelers are 31st in first-half scoring and yards since 2021. Only one first-half drive reached the endzone so far this season. Last Sunday, against the Texans they couldn't even cross the 50-yard line in the first half.
But, this column isn't another "Fire Canada" column. Well, mostly.
You see, this team is going through changes, and not just in the preparation and matchups.
Tomlin was right, the Texans were the more physical team on Sunday. The reasoning for that is what's getting glossed over. Houston's players like their situation and their trajectory for this season and the coming years. Pittsburgh's players look and feel hopeless.
Football is (supposed to be) fun, sir?
How can anyone who lines up on the Steelers' offense be inspired by Canada's playcalling? How can anyone on that offense have fun playing football? Conversely, how can the defense have any fun knowing they'll be on the field for two-thirds of the game and be required to give the offense a short field in order to have any amount of success?
They can't. Or at least it'd be really difficult to. Take Najee Harris. He's trying to prove he's not a bust, and that he's a valuable asset to his team despite not having playcalling or situations that work in his favor. He demonstrated in the third quarter of Sunday's game that he's going to fight to prove the narratives surrounding him are false, but he can only carry so many defenders on his back.
Then there's Kenny Pickett. Make no mistake, Pickett isn't playing well. First of all, how can he if the defense knows everything he's about to do and he can't make changes at the line of scrimmage? Secondly, I've seen the analysis of the fourth down call that Pickett sacked himself. He absolutely did, and that hurts. Though he shouldn't have been in the situation to begin with.
But how can anyone get a strong read on Pickett when this scheme puts him in such horrendous situations? Remember how Trevor Lawrence's rookie season was wiped away because of Urban Meyer's disastrous run as head coach in Jacksonville? Pickett doesn't carry Lawrence's pedigree, sure, but shouldn't he be afforded the opportunity to crawl out of this situation and prove his worth?
He does, and he will.
So, what changes are coming, then?
But first, the change has to happen. That change, to be clear, is the Pittsburgh Steelers getting worse before things get better.
Canada saved his job after the BYE Week in 2022. Is he going to get that same opportunity in 2023? Maybe. Or maybe he can't survive getting torched by the Baltimore Ravens in front of the home crowd before an early BYE.
See last year, the players found a reason to be inspired. This year, it's hard to find a glimmer of hope. Well, hope with Canada at the helm, anyway.
A famous movie said, "Rebellions are built on hope." I don't mean to insinuate that the Steelers' offense is going to mutiny Canada. I'm saying that the only hope that Canada is gone sooner rather than later is to get thrashed by the team most of us as Steelers fans despise the most. The Steelers' players continuing to show a complete lack of faith in Canada is the fastest way to get their independence from him.
The next hope is that should the Steelers stick with Canada, the Steelers don't find that same spark out of the BYE as they did last year. There cannot be any ounce of reason for Canada to stick around after this season to continue to send this team further and further into the abyss.
Truthfully, things have to get worse for Pittsburgh, which is hard to believe. Because right now, wearing pads at practice and taking 15 extra minutes to analyze matchups isn't going to put the Steelers in a playoff spot or ensure that this team will have a successful outlook for the next three to five years.