Allegany Communications Sports

We won’t have Matt Canada to kick around anymore.

Wanna bet?

Canada’s going to be kicked around every week the Pittsburgh Steelers even get a sniff of 400 yards of offense in a game, as less than a week after firing him as offensive coordinator, the Canada-less Steelers did, in fact, show new life on offense in their 16-10 win over the Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals.

Quarterback Kenny Pickett passed for a season-high 278 yards and the Steelers ran up 421 yards of offense, ending a streak of 58 games without gaining 400 yards, which is almost as remarkable as Canada being the franchise’s first coordinator or head coach to be ousted in-season since 1941. Though, truthfully, nothing is as remarkable as the Steelers franchise having had the same number of head coaches — 3 — as they’ve had stadiums since 1969. But I digress …

No, it wasn’t Bradshaw to Swann or Stallworth, but there was a marked difference on Sunday in the eye test alone, as the Steelers used their tight ends much more than they had all season, passing downfield and running their backs straight ahead as well; and it showed in the performance.

With running backs coach Eddie Faulkner running the offense on an interim basis and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan calling plays, the Steelers outgained their opponent for the first time this season, as tight end Pat Freiermuth had a career-high 120 yards receiving and Najee Harris ran for 99.

At 7-4, the Steelers have put themselves back into the AFC North hunt, though, thanks in part to the Ravens’ ineptitude, they were never really out of it. They currently trail the Ravens (9-3) by 1.5 games, as Baltimore heads into its bye week, and are tied with the Cleveland Browns for second place.

With the Browns losing yet another quarterback on Sunday, it feels as though the time is about right for the recently-signed Joe Flacco to be stepping behind center in Cleveland. Talk about old times …

And speaking of old times, and falling under the Earl Weaver Everything Affects Everything thesis, had Tyrell Pigrome been able to complete a short and wide-open pass on a two-point conversion in 2018, not only would the Maryland Terrapins have defeated Ohio State, they would have become bowl-eligible with six wins, and the next head football coach of the Terps may well have been Matt Canada.

Canada, during one of the most tumultuous seasons in Maryland football history, served as the interim head coach and actually did quite well, leading the Terrapins to a 5-7 season, which included a season-opening upset win over Texas and the near-victory over the Buckeyes.

Had Piggy been able to complete that pass, as he should have, who knows? Canada interviewed for the job, though he said in an interview with Sports Illustrated he never expected to get it, as Michael Locksley was hired.

“I never thought I was going to get that job,” Canada said. “I think they made a great decision. Locks is from the area. He wanted the job. It’s what I thought would happen. They wanted a fresh start and all that.”

Canada, who recruited and then accepted a commitment from a high school receiver from Pittsburgh by the name of Dino Tomlin while he was the interim head coach at Maryland in 2018, did not coach during the 2019 season, before being hired by the Steelers in January of 2020.

Thus, as the great Joaquin Andujar once said, “There is one word in America that says it all, and that word is, ‘You never know.’ “

Speaking of the Baltimore Ravens, they enter their bye week at 9-3 following their 20-10 road win over the Los Angeles Chargers, marking the first time the Ravens have been 9-3 since their last Super Bowl season of 2012. ESPN Analytics says Baltimore is 98.7% to make the playoffs, 77.7% to win the AFC North and 22.5% to be the top seed in the AFC, with the third toughest remaining schedule in the NFL.

You never know …

The Sunday Night win over the Chargers is a good win, as all wins are at this stage and makes the Ravens 5-1 on the road this season. It just seemed as though it could have been a little easier than it was, as the Baltimore defense was magnificent in forcing four L.A. turnovers.

The offense started fast, but the Chargers defense had a pretty good night. It’s just going to take a while for Baltimore to figure out life without Mark Andrews, which will be no small task.

Still, the possibilities with this team and the talent that’s on it are huge, so it would be nice if the guy wearing the big headset on the sideline would stop interfering with his terrible decision-making on all things play-challenges, fourth downs and timeouts.

It’s amazing we keep having this discussion, which we will continue at another time.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT