For Pittsburgh Steelers fans, firing Matt Canada couldn’t come a moment too soon.
Cleveland Browns fans agree the timing was just right. In that the news came after the Browns had played the Steelers twice this year, including beating Pittsburgh, 13-10, on Sunday as the Steelers’ passing game looked as bad as it has in literal decades.
When the news broke along the ESPN Cleveland radio waves this morning, Browns hosts had one reaction.
“Thank God they waited a week,” said Tony Grossi. “Because I think we could’ve seen a different outcome the way that offense was run.”
Grossi then praised the Rooney family for making the move now instead of watching the Steelers’ “season go down the drain.” But this is historically unprecedented, firing a coordinator midseason.
If the Steelers’ running game served as a spark Sunday, their passing game was a wet fart. RB Jaylen Warren did the heavy lifting as the team’s sole source of offense, rushing for 129 yards, headlined by a 74-yard touchdown run, the team’s longest rushing score since Willie Parker in Super Bowl XL. QB Kenny Pickett and the passing game fell flat, the second-year man not cracking 100 yards passing until the final play of the game, an almost-meaningless lateral attempt with two seconds to play after Browns K Dustin Hopkins had put Cleveland ahead.
Despite ample opportunity, Pittsburgh couldn’t put more points on the board. Tied at 10, the Steelers had two drives in the final six minutes to take the lead. On 2nd and 10 from the Browns’ 40, right on the cusp of field goal range, RB Najee Harris was tackled for a loss of five. Their third-down play gained only two and the Steelers were forced to punt, one of nine on the day.
After a defensive stand, Pittsburgh got the ball back with 1:42 left to play. Pickett threw three incompletions to WR Diontae Johnson, the offense using up only 14 seconds. Cleveland put together its only points of the second half, rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson leading the Browns downfield to set up Hopkins’ game-winning 34-yard field goal. After the game, Pickett would admit the Steelers’ game plan wasn’t equipped to combat the heavy amount of zone coverage the Browns played. Pittsburgh built its game plan around facing man coverage.
The Steelers split their season series with Cleveland after beating them in Week Two, another poor offensive showing that relied on two defensive touchdowns to win the game.
The Steelers will try to reset on and off the field against the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday and their new-look offense. And Browns fans will watch it from afar, not seeing Pittsburgh until 2024. Unless, of course, the two teams somehow manage to meet in the playoffs. It would be a longshot, likely meaning one of them won the AFC North, but it would make for one heck of a storyline.