LATROBE, Pa. – It is absolutely critical for Kenny Pickett to get off to the fast start he did in the preseason opener on Friday.
By the way the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense chose the first series of the year that resulted in the completion of 6-of-7 passes, including a 33-yard touchdown toss to George Pickens, almost says its success that offense at the end of the end. the timing was not a fluke.
And that goes for offensive coordinator Matt Canada as well.
As the Pittsburgh Steelers return to Saint Vincent College to finish their final days of training camp away from their home base at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, the buzz is all about Pickett and the offense.
The truth is that Canada has a bit of a jump in his step as well because of what his unit has done and who can blame him?
Canada spent about 10 minutes talking to the media outside the campus locker room on Sunday with a somber sense of accomplishment after a near-flawless performance by his first-team offense. over the weekend in a 27-17 win over Tampa Bay.
Steelers preseason standouts: Speedsters, rookies make splash plays against Bucs
“It was a preseason game so you’ll see how it goes, I guess,” Canada said. “It felt like we had an agenda to do some things in that game. Obviously it’s like the game and how the guys play under the lights is important, but there’s an agenda: balls in this guy, a few things here and there. I think for the most part it’s good, especially. We’re doing what we want to do.”
File it under things you like to see 🗂️
– Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 13, 2023
Canada wants to create an environment where Pickett moves the ball to different receivers to get as much involvement as he can. He’s looking for Pickett to make crisp, clean decisions and, of course, score.
Canada checked everything off the to-do list in the first six minutes the Steelers had the ball.
“With a small sample size of what we had with the whole group and Kenny, we were able to achieve what we wanted to do,” Canada said. “There’s nothing we did Friday night that we didn’t do last year. Killing is what we are trying to get. We have a plan of what we want to do and how many opportunities we have if possible. We’re trying to do that within the framework because we don’t know how many opportunities we’re going to get…
Some may shudder to believe that Canada is saying it is more like what he called a year ago but it just happened to be killed on the other side of it. Canada is buried locally and nationally as a variable that could make this promising 2023 season fall even before it begins.
Canada’s love of jet sweeps and moves has been the butt of many jokes and the few national masters who play the game at a high level are never above Canada’s ability to be an offensive coordinator.
For one, potential Hall of Fame receiver Steve Smith Sr. called Canada’s offense “Saturday-ish” after a Saturday night game last season.
“I said his play calling was Saturday and this, even though it’s Saturday, Sunday in football and it doesn’t work here. Not at this level,” Smith said. Sunday.”
That is not a compliment.
Canada’s revamped — three new linemen, a new offensive line coach, a rookie receiver, a second-year running back and tight end, a high-pedigree receiver who is -trade in midseason, and a rookie quarterback in Pickett starting the last three months — and tried to do it under Tomlin’s conservative directive.
It wasn’t pretty at times.
The Steelers have gained more than 300 yards in 13 of their 17 games but have scored 30 points just once and at least 20 points just eight times. In 34 games under Canada, the Steelers scored 30 points or more just twice.
If you look back at last season’s finale, the same narrative played out. Many of the players said that the success in the second half was based more on the execution of the offense than anything else.
– Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 12, 2023
Marking is also an issue.
Two years removed from a team that scored 50 touchdowns, Canada’s two-year offensive touchdown total is 61. It dropped from 33 in 2021 to 28 last season, which is less than two touchdown every game.
But when you have a 40-year-old quarterback setting his sights and a rookie who is as green as you get when he becomes a starter, you can see what the growing pains are.
The Steelers won seven of their last nine games last season after a 2-6 start and narrowly missed the AFC playoffs.
The offense was better in the second half, which is almost certainly the reason Canada was brought back for another season – which would be his last if the offense couldn’t make a significant improvement.
For the first time since Canada was promoted to offensive coordinator, the Steelers gave him not only a talented offense but also an offensive line full of assets, with an offensive line that could be massively upgraded from last year’s solid unit. And, above all, a sense of direction.
They added an important cog to the offensive line with Isaac Seumalo at guard and Allen Robinson II as a slot receiver. Pickett, Pickens, Connor Heyward and Calvin Austin III look like they could get a second year jump and a rebound season for Diontae Johnson is very possible.
How Canada distributes the men’s ball will have a lot to do with the team’s success.
“Everybody’s not going to have the best game of their career every game,” Canada said. “It doesn’t just happen that way. Kenny’s job is to handle that and our guys’ job is to handle that … we have the ability to get the ball where it needs to go.
However, a hardcore plan seems to be in place.
This is not a Pitt 2.0 offense, a pre-snap motion offense or a jet sweep offense. He doesn’t have to work with an aging quarterback coming off elbow surgery, or a rookie first-round pick who is asked not to lose games more often than to win them.
“I think we can do really well,” the Canadian said. “We will continue to quietly improve and do one thing at a time but always better. We did all the things we did last year in that game with our games but this is clean, this sharp. the execution is better and that’s what we’ve been talking about for a long time. I’m excited about where we are and where we’re going.”
But this is just one step and Canada knows that.
These are 10 scripted plays to start the first preseason game against a bad team that doesn’t play well with their defensive regulars. A similar performance on Saturday against the Buffalo Bills at Acrisure Stadium if the starters can go like the entire first half will be better than last week.
Kaboly: Kenny Pickett, Steelers’ offense scored more than one TD with 1 preseason drive
“It’s important,” Canada said. “There’s an agenda next week and we’re going to go out and do it. All that matters is building enough to come out and be ready for the 49ers. How do we attack today to get that? Saturday’s going to be a different guy. we’re going to feature. All those things matter but ultimately the thing that matters is the 49ers.”
(Top photo of George Pickens: Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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