For the first time in franchise history, the Pittsburgh Steelers fired a coordinator in the middle of a season. Former Steelers OC Matt Canada, who spent nearly three seasons with the team, was let go following the 13-10 Week 11 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Former Steelers RB Merril Hoge joined Scott Ferrall on SportsGrid Radio ahead of the Super Bowl and briefly discussed Steelers president Art Rooney II.
“I would say this about Art. Art is obviously different, but don’t underestimate him,” Hoge said. “They had never gotten rid of a coordinator during the season in that era. For him to do that, and his commitment [to] doing it during the season is rare. It’s never happened before during the time frame with the Rooneys, so to have that happen, and it was required—they needed to do that.”
Steelers ownership and leadership have always been marked by patience and stability. The franchise has only had three head coaches since 1969. With the turn of another era following the retirement of QB Ben Roethlisberger, members of the media and fans have grown increasingly impatient as the Steelers struggle to live up to their standard of competing for Super Bowls. This has led to some wondering if Rooney is a strong enough personality to lead the team as its president. Is he comfortable with the status quo and maintaining continuity at all costs?
While head coach Mike Tomlin ultimately made the call on firing Canada, such an unprecedented move for the team very likely would have had to get some form of approval from Rooney. Hoge makes a great point in saying that he had a hand in something that had never been done before.
Rooney, while recently speaking to members of the Pittsburgh media to wrap the 2023 season and discuss the future of the franchise, stated that “we are getting impatient” with the lack of playoff success. Without a clear path forward to restoring their status as Super Bowl contenders, the external pressures are likely to continue mounting on the organization. Rooney has already proven that he is willing to have big changes occur under his leadership, but the changes aren’t made without fully considering the ramifications.
“He’s made some calls when it’s required,” Hoge said. “I think he’s not quick to rush to judgment and pull the rug out from somebody. He wants things to unfold because, if you need to fire them, you need to get rid of them, [and] who’s gonna replace ’em?”
Another hot topic toward the end of the 2023 season was the contract status of Tomlin. Rooney and Tomlin have since stated they want to continue working together and Rooney is hopeful of signing Tomlin to a contract extension. The conversation surrounding possibly moving on from Tomlin has to start there—who would replace him?
For now, it doesn’t sound like the organization is likely to go down that path any time soon. But keep in mind that unprecedented moves have now been made under Art Rooney II’s leadership, and more seasons without a playoff win could spur that impatience into action.