Steelers interim OC on fired Matt Canada: ‘We let him down’


PITTSBURGH — The promotion to interim offensive coordinator is bittersweet for Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner.

Faulkner, who has been on staff in Pittsburgh since 2019, is close friends with fired OC Matt Canada.

“I couldn’t say enough good about Matt Canada,” said Faulkner, who first worked with him at Northern Illinois in 2011. “It’s a little bit bittersweet in that way because when you sit back and you see all that goes on, and all that’s being said about him and the offense, we all — and I’m speaking for the offense when I say this to staff — we all felt that we’re all part of that. Nobody’s absolving themselves from anything that’s happened in that regard. We feel like we let him down.

“I got to say that because that’s what a real one would do. That’s a friend of mine, and that’s not going to change.”

Coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week that he made the change because improvements to the offense weren’t “rapid enough or consistent enough” to proceed with Canada.

On Thursday, Faulkner said there wouldn’t necessarily be any significant tactical shift to the offense over the final seven games of the season.

“You can’t, you know what I mean?” he said. “Here we are in the middle of the season. I mean you got to roll with what we’ve been doing, putting game plans together, what our guys can execute. We’re going to continue to do that.”

Tomlin said he selected Faulkner to lead the offense because of his “steady voice and demeanor” and “natural” communication in conducting the running backs room.

Faulkner said that comes from growing up in a household where his mom was an educator.

“For me that’s always been the deal,” Faulkner said, “being able to affect lives, being involved with those guys and then football will be a byproduct of developing that.”

Running back Najee Harris, who has been coached by Faulkner since he arrived in 2021 and voiced his frustration with the offense after Sunday’s loss in Cleveland, declined to be interviewed Thursday.

Tomlin also emphasized the need for the offense to operate more fluidly and, perhaps most importantly, score more points. While Faulkner didn’t get into the specifics of how the Steelers are going to do that on the field, he emphasized his role as a communicator and leader in turning the offense around.

“I’m going to empower the guys around us,” he said. “I’m going to have lots of conversations with ’em. We’re going to dot our i’s and cross our t’s the best we can in the hope that we go out there and put a good product out there to execute and score points.

“And if it doesn’t turn out, we get back in the lab the next week and we do the same thing and we just keep on trying to tweak the product until it’s what we desire. And to be honest with you, I don’t know if it’ll ever get to where you desire because you’re always seeking excellence.”

While Faulkner will handle the bulk of the coordinator duties on a day-to-day basis, including leading the offensive meetings, quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan will be the game-day playcaller. Both will operate from the sideline Sunday.

“He and I are going to work real hard to be in lockstep with each other,” Faulkner said. “I know on game day, any playcaller wants to be able to be narrowly focused on what he needs to do. And I’m not going to interfere with that. But at the same time, we’re going to have enough conversations and tee ourselves up as well as we can, so when we go into that game atmosphere, we’re all on the same page when the chips start to kind of fall out.”

Source : ESPN