March 5, 2024

PITTSBURGH — Like many of his teammates, quarterback Kenny Pickett wasn’t expecting the Pittsburgh Steelers to make a significant change to the offense following their 13-10 loss at the Cleveland Browns.

Yet, he woke up Tuesday morning to his phone buzzing non-stop and saw the news that coach Mike Tomlin fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

“I wasn’t aware of any moves that were going to be made,” Pickett said Wednesday. “… You hate to see it. You don’t want to see one of your coaches lose their job. We all got to be better. Called coach [Canada], wished him well. We had a great conversation, but you got to bounce back quick and get ready to go.”

Canada’s dismissal, Pickett said, feels like a challenge of sorts to the offense to step up in the final seven games of the season.

“It’s a challenge to everybody,” Pickett said. “I feel like you have to take it personal. It’s a guy you’ve worked with since I got drafted here, you want to play great, you don’t want to see anyone get let go like that. So absolutely we have to answer the bell, find out what we need to do to play better and then just go take care of business.”

Center Mason Cole echoed Pickett’s sentiments.

“Him losing his job and being fired is on all of us,” Cole said. “It’s on all the coaches and all the players. We weren’t good enough for him to keep his job, and that falls on not just him on all the us. But we have to take that as it goes. And we play a division game here in five days, so the train will keep moving. I’m looking forward to doing a battle with these guys and just kind of putting this behind us and looking forward and having fun.”

Though there’s a change to the person making the calls, Pickett doesn’t expect a dramatic shift in the offense with quarterback coach Mike Sullivan on the headset Sunday. Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner will take over various weekly offensive coordinator duties.

“You can’t have wholesale changes at this point in the season,” Pickett said. “We’re going to run the system that we’ve been using, and Coach Sully, Coach Faulk, they’re going to put their wrinkle in on it, on what they want to run and when they want to run it.”

And Pickett admitted he’s been frustrated with his own play this season, too, with a 35.7 QBR and just six passing touchdowns.

“I’m a perfectionist,” he said. “I’ve always been that way. Always hardest on myself and how I need to play and the standard I hold myself to. But there’s a balance to that. I want to go out there and have fun, play, do what I’ve done my whole life. So that’s what want to get back to and enjoy the people that I’m doing it with and got great friends on this team. So I just want to get back to playing football.”

Though Pickett is frustrated with his own performance, wide receiver Allen Robinson II and tight end Pat Freiermuth expressed faith in the young quarterback.

“Confidence is high,” Robinson said. “At the end of the day, the lows and stuff that we have had on offense doesn’t come down to one person, one individual or anything like that. It is us as a group again, being able to figure out the things that we need to get better at, how we can get better at those, and then going out and getting better at those.

“I think that we have the right group to be able to do that, to get this thing pushed in the right direction. We have an immense amount of talent, I think that we’ve seen everybody in the plays that they’re capable of making across the board at every position group.”

Wide receiver Diontae Johnson said he hopes the moves this week will jumpstart the offense, beginning with this weekend’s game at the Cincinnati Bengals.

“We harp on that every day trying to figure out what it is that’s holding us back or whatever, but it’s not mystical,” Johnson said. “I always say just go out there and practice and make the plays look good. It don’t matter what play it is or who’s calling plays or who’s throwing the ball. Everybody just got to work as one and that’s all that matters.”

Cole also believes Canada’s firing gives the locker room an opportunity to pull together and fight through the adversity as a group.

“I think this group will smile on the face of this,” Cole said. “I think that’s exciting. It’s going to be exciting to watch and not give a s— and whatever anybody else is saying and just go out there and play.”

Cole added: “I don’t think there was a whole bunch of division [in the locker room], but having been through this before in a different sense, but I think it brings the guys together a little bit. Just kind of us against the world.”

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