Here's What Matt Canada Said About Big Ben's Role In 2021

By Jason Hall

June 16, 2021

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo: Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada made one thing clear during the team's minicamp on Tuesday (June 15): the offense will run through Ben Roethlisberger.

While speaking to media members, Canada, who served as Roethlisberger's quarterbacks coach in 2020, said that while this year's playbook will be different, the Steelers will continue to build around the 18-year veteran's strengths.

"I think in football, it is 11 men doing their job, but the quarterback is their focal point," Canada said Tuesday from minicamp, via the Associated Press. "We are going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it. Our job is putting every player in a position to make plays."

Canada was promoted this offseason after Pittsburgh chose not to renew Randy Fichtner's contract amid offensive struggles in 2020.

The former LSU and Maryland offensive coordinator is expected to implement more pre-snap motion, jet sweeps and up-tempo plays than previous Steelers coordinators, but Canada said he is tweaking his offense to fit to the 39-year-old quarterback.

"We would certainly continue to use tempo, and use the things that Ben is very good at to let the offense be the most productive it can possibly be," Canada said. "There are changes with terminology and how we are calling things, which has been a challenge for Ben, but he has been great at learning it. I don't have any concern about Ben doing anything we want him to do."

Roethlisberger agreed to take a pay cut in order to help out the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.

During a media session earlier this month, the 39-year-old quarterback said he suggested taking a $5 million pay reduction in order to help the Steelers free up $15 million in cap space.

"I told them I want to help the team out however we can," Roethlisberger said via Sports Illustrated. "I went to them and told them I'll do whatever I could to help the team sign the guys that are going to help us win football games. I've been extremely blessed to play this game a long time. That was one of the reasons I wanted to come back. I knew we had a great defense and amazing weapons on offense.
"I wanted to come back and be part of a special football team, one that everyone is overlooking, which is kind of cool, too. In order to help get the guys, I felt it was necessary to do that."

The Steelers were able to re-sign Zach Banner, Cameron Sutton, Tyson Alualu and Juju Smith-Schuster, Roethlisberger's primary wide receiver, as well as several additional free agents with the additional cap space.

"I felt it was the right thing to do if I wanted to play," Roethlisberger said. "I felt relatively healthy, all things considered at the end of the season. It just felt like I had more in the tank and felt disappointed with the way the season ended, obviously, and I hated to go out that way."

Roethlisberger and the Steelers agreed on a new contract in March for the 2021 season, which will be his 18th with the franchise after being selected No. 11 overall in the 2004 NFL Draft.

In February, Steelers team president Art Rooney II confirmed he met with Roethlisberger and both sides planned to continue discussing adjustments to the veteran quarterback's contract situation ahead of the agreement.

"Ben Roethlisberger and I met yesterday morning and we had a productive meeting" Rooney said in the statement shared by Steelers Director of Communications Burt Lauten. "We were able to discuss a lot of things that relate to where we are and where we want to go. Ben assured me that he is committed to coming back to help us win, and I told Ben that we would like to have him back to help us win a championship. We both understand the next step is to work out Ben's contract situation."

Roethlisberger was in the final year of his previous deal, which included a $41.2 million cap hit, ESPN reported.

Roethlisberger's agent, Ryan Tollner, said "we are happy to creatively adjust his contract to help [the Steelers] build the best team possible," in a statement shared to NFL Network in February.

Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette initially reported the meeting between Roethlisberger and Rooney, which he said "went well" at the time.

In January, Roethlisberger, 38, told the Athletic that he's "pretty sure" he wants to play another season and plans to discuss his current contract with the Steelers, which includes a $41.2 million cap hit.

"I want to do everything I can and made that very clear to them from the very beginning that it was my idea to basically help the team however I can this year," Roethlisberger said.

The two-time Super Bowl champion said he thinks he "can do it and give us a real chance at winning" when asked about a possible return.

During a January Zoom call, Rooney said the franchise was leaving the door open for Roethlisberger to return and make adjustments to his current contract.

"I think we've been up front with Ben in letting him know that we couldn't have him back under the current contract," Rooney said via ESPN. "I think he understands we have some work to do there. We'll have more conversations internally, and we'll have more conversations with Ben, and we'll have to know what the cap number is to finalize some of those decisions."

Roethlisberger also told the Athletic that he didn't "care bout my pay at all this year" when asked about possible re-negotiations. The 38-year-old quarterback threw for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on 399 of 608 passing, while leading Pittsburgh to an AFC North Division Championship in 2020, before being eliminated by the rival Cleveland Browns in the AFC Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Smith-Schuster also said the veteran quarterback returning would be a key factor in his own upcoming free agency decision before announcing his decision to return to the Steelers in March.

"I do want to play for a team that competes for the Super Bowl every year," Smith-Schuster told the Yinzhers Podcast., which also featured his mother, Sammy Toa Schuster, as a guest. "That's in the playoffs. Obviously, the Steelers are that. I do want to play for a great quarterback, not knowing what Ben's going to do. I do want to be paid a reasonable price for what I'm worth. 

"In all consideration, I would love to stay with the Steelers. I would love to stay with them, but as of right now, we're just kind of up in the air, waiting."

Smith-Schuster also said it "means a lot" that franchise quarterback Roethlisberger would be willing to re-negotiate his current contract to free up cap space, providing the Steelers with more money to sign other players, during an interview with FOX Sports Radio prior to re-signing with Pittsburgh.

The 24-year-old said he'd "love to play with Ben for his time here" prior the quarterback's decision to return to the franchise.

Photo: Getty Images

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