We come back to talk about Matt Canada. After highlighting his predictability in the Buffalo Bills game, I want to zoom out and talk about Canada’s favorite play call: his sprint to the field side of the field. Simply put, I’m talking about plays in which the quarterback rolls on the outside and quickly throws the ball down the sideline. Here is an example.
I went back — and I’ll argue that I’m entitled to financial compensation — and watched every snap the Pittsburgh Steelers ran this season. In five games and 181 pass attempts, they have run this game 17 times. It is 9.4% of everything the team’s passing attempts, an incredibly high number for such a low-paying game.
Today, I’m going to break it down in every way to see how and when Canada uses this concept.
Of the 17 times he’s run it this season, here’s the game-by-game breakdown.
H has used it at least once in every game, but when it comes down to it, it’s used in bunches. Six against the Browns, six Sunday against the Bills. It’s a concept that Canada has relied on more since week one. From weeks 2-5, this sprint accounts for 11.2% of all pass attempts by this team.
Now, Canada uses this call in specific situations. It’s something he relies on early downs and behind the sticks (1st and 10, 2nd and long) to try to stay on schedule or get back into a manageable situation, turning a 2nd and 9 into say, 3rd and 4. I plotted low and range games. First, a look down.
First try : 6 times
Second trial : 9 times
Third try: 2 times
These concepts are executed on both sides, left and right, but almost always on the open side of the field to give the quarterback more room. 16 of 17 (94.1%) came from the open side with the only exception late in the 1st half against the Browns, with the Steelers trying to get a quick five yards and out of bounds. But the Browns played on the sidelines and the game fell through.
How about the distance? Another clear trend.
1-3 meters: Zero times
4-6 yards: Twice
7-9 yards: Five times
10+ meters: Ten times
58.8% of these calls need ten meters or more and they usually happen on 2nd and 11+. Of all 1st/2nd downs and 7+ pass attempts, Canada executed this sprint 13.5% of the time. On all 2nd and 7+ passes, he performed it 21.4% of the time.
There are two route combinations for this sprint: a curl/smash and a speed out. Here is the breakdown of each:
Canada started the season with speed, ran all four times in the first four games, but recently fell back on the curl/smash, including all six games in Sunday’s loss to the Bills. The corner route in the smash (curl/corner) is rarely targeted, it’s a low-high reading, thrown only once at the end of last week. The pass was incomplete.
If there’s any credit to be given to Canada, it’s a high-percentage game. It was completed most of the time. Here are the 17 of these coins. By the way, that’s not even counting the four shovel options that had that road attached and a game against the Bills that had a sprint with a potential jet play/return option. So you can say that number 17 is on the conservative side of things.
Canada hasn’t built any concept on it and it’s only a matter of time before a defender jumps that lane and makes a play on the ball.
Although he regularly gains five yards per pop, that’s also the downside. It’s the old joke. If you need five meters, it will get you five meters. If you need eight yards, it will get you five yards. There is no chance of YAC. The exit speed drives the player out of bounds and the loop is often challenged by the corner. Guys like Diontae Johnson, capable after take, are limited. These are safe sideline calls that gain a few yards and nothing more.
It is truly surprising that Canada did not use them in the most logical situation. Short distance. 2nd and short, 3rd and short. If the goal is to move the sticks, get five yards, then run them to 3rd and 3rd. As we noted, he’s run them on third down only twice all season, including one we mentioned – the halftime play against the Browns. It happened on the 3rd and 10th and the Browns easily countered. The only other was too in the Browns game, a failed 3rd and 5 and the Steelers were called for OPI.
Still, it’s a logical call. They’re such a bad team on possessions and had plenty of chances to convert in manageable situations – they’re tied with the Detroit Lions for the most pass attempts on 3rd and 1-5 with 28. Yet , only one was this sprint , the best time to call it. There’s a reason their conversion rate is so low in these situations, tied for 24th.
That’s a lot of information so let me recap.
– Matt Canada loves this sprint
– It is performed on nearly 10% of all passes
– It is even more used in “and long” situations
– This eliminates YAC chances for WRs
– It is not used in short distance situations
– Nothing is built on it
These are plays that I would expect a bad high school offense to rely on. Not an NFL. Coupled with what we wrote yesterday, Pittsburgh’s passing game is so watered down to a few concepts that don’t stress defenders without constraint plays to work on, whether in concept, formation, or staffing, that ‘they got boring. and a frustrating offense to watch.
I wanted to be optimistic about Matt Canada this year, treating 2022 as a clean slate. All the evils of this team do not fall on him. Players have consistently failed to execute, and he’s already gone through two quarterbacks. My point here, as was the case yesterday, was a little less about the effectiveness of the games but about how often they are called for poor returns. To show how little concept this team has. This team has an extremely thin playbook that could work in the college game where talent can win or when you’re dealing with 19- and 20-year-olds trying to commit an offense. This doesn’t translate well to the next level. Canada’s concepts aren’t unique, a lot of the league runs this stuff, heck, a lot of people learned it from him in college, but they were able to build on it. Canada did not. And that’s a problem.