Steelers promote QB coach Canada to offensive coordinator

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t look very far to find a new offensive coordinator, promoting quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to the position on Monday to replace Randy Fichtner.

The Steelers opted not to renew Fichtner’s contract following a first-round playoff loss to Cleveland. Pittsburgh will now turn to Canada — hired a year ago to help develop a relationship with Ben Roethlisberger and mentor young backups Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs — to inject some life into an offense that sputtered down the stretch. The Steelers lost five of their final six games following an 11-0 start and finished last in the NFL in both yards rushing and yards per carry.

Fixing the running game during the offseason is a priority, but it’s just one of many Canada will face in his first year on the job.

Roethlisberger remains under contract for the 2021 season, but has seen familiar faces leave in recent weeks. Fichtner was let go earlier this month and tight end and good friend Vance McDonald announced his retirement last Friday. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner are free agents and the team is still searching for an offensive line coach to replace Shaun Sarrett, whose contract was not renewed.

Canada is hardly an unknown quantity in Pittsburgh. He served as the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Panthers — who share a training facility with the Steelers — in 2016, overseeing a dynamic attack that led to him being a finalist for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant.

LSU was so impressed it offered him the same title and a massive pay raise to come to Baton Rouge. Canada’s stay in the Bayou lasted just one season. He quickly moved on to become the offensive coordinator at Maryland and found himself thrust into the role of interim coach in 2018 when D.J. Durkin was suspended and ultimately fired in the aftermath of the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair. Canada led the Terrapins to a 5-7 record while directing an offense that put up more than 30 points seven times, including 51 in an overtime loss to eventual Big Ten champion Ohio State.

Canada’s promotion gives Pittsburgh some continuity and could play a role in whether Roethlisberger — who has a salary cap hit of more than $41 million for 2021 — returns. The two appeared to generate a solid rapport in their one season together. Roethlisberger and Canada could be seen working together on Wednesdays on fundamentals such as footwork.

Canada’s promotion was the second vacancy filled by the Steelers on Monday. Earlier in the day, the club hired longtime NFL assistant Alfredo Roberts as its new tight ends coach.

Roberts replaces James Daniel, who retired earlier this month after 17 seasons with the Steelers and 27 overall in the NFL.

Pittsburgh is the sixth NFL stop for Roberts. He spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, serving as running backs coach from 2017-19 before sliding over to tight ends coach this past season. Roberts previously coached for Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Tampa Bay.

Roberts played six seasons in the NFL from 1988-93, catching 48 passes for 450 yards and two touchdowns in his career with Kansas City and Dallas. He won a pair Super Bowl with the Cowboys in the 1992 and 1993 seasons before going into coaching.

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