The Pittsburgh Steelers have fired Matt Canada. Which leaves one (of many) questions. Who will replace him? In the interim, we know it’ll be a combination of RBs Coach Eddie Faulkner and QBs Coach Mike Sullivan, the latter holding actual play-calling duties on gameday.
But once the Steelers’ season wraps up, they’ll have to find a permanent option. It’s possible it’s an internal hire — that’s where the last two choices have come from, Randy Fichtner followed by Canada — but an external hire is certainly on the table, too.
Two former Steelers players know who they want. An outsider who isn’t really an outsider: former QB Byron Leftwich. On the latest episode of the Craig Carton show, former OG Willie Colon and WR Plaxico Burress urged the team to hire Leftwich as Canada’s replacement.
“Call up Byron Leftwich,” Colon told the show. “Byron Leftwich has been out there. He should be the next guy in line. He knows what it takes. He knows what it looks like…he knows how to appeal to a locker room.”
Colon went so far as to say Leftwich should jump right in as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator in the middle of the season, though that obviously won’t happen. He said Leftwich won’t be complacent with mediocre results and he “knows the culture” to allow the defense to win games. Colon added that losing to the Cleveland Browns Sunday is something the Pittsburgh Steelers just don’t do and may have been the breaking point for the team to finally move on.
Leftwich is currently unemployed after being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2022 season. Prior to his downfall, he was one of the hottest names in football and nearly became head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars as Urban Meyer’s replacement before a potential deal fell through and he stayed in Tampa Bay.
“I believe it is B Left,” Burress said, agreeing with Colon. “There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be an offensive coordinator in the league anyway.”
To Colon, having someone who studied the game like Leftwich is valuable. So is a coach with NFL experience as a starting quarterback in the league, a resume that may command more respect in the locker room. His ability to relate to quarterbacks, first-hand knowledge of a quarterback’s point of view, also works in his favor.
“It’s different from a guy who played the game at a high level versus a guy who learned the game,” Colon said. “That man played the game. He was a big-time quarterback.”
The seventh overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft, Leftwich played nine years in the NFL. He spent four years with Pittsburgh, the 2008 season and then returned to the team from 2010-12, missing the 2011 season with an injury. Playing time was scarce, he threw only 96 passes, but he was praised for his football IQ. In October 2022, Leftwich recalled the impact Mike Tomlin made on him as he embarked on his coaching career.
“Mike T’s a unique, special guy, man,” Leftwich said at the time. “That is all you can really say. I learned so much from him. I can’t have more respect for the coach and the human being than I have for a coach or a player or really a person. He’s that unique. It was enjoyable to play for him. It’s motivational to play for him.”
After his playing career ended, Leftwich broke into the coaching ranks in 2016 as an intern with the Arizona Cardinals. He quickly moved up the ladder to become the team’s quarterbacks coach the following two seasons before taking over as interim offensive coordinator in 2018 after the Cardinals fired Mike McCoy. Tampa Bay hired Leftwich in 2019 to be its offensive coordinator, a role he held through the 2022 season. His first few seasons with the team were strong but in his final year, Leftwich was criticized for running the ball too often as the Buccaneers’ offense bottomed out, even with Tom Brady at quarterback.
Colon and Burress aren’t the only former Steelers to offer up Leftwich’s name. Ben Roethlisberger made similar comments last month.
“I think if the team was to move on from Matt, I would love to see Byron Leftwich come in here and be the OC,” Roethlisberger said. “He was here. He’s played under Coach T. He understands what it means to be a Steeler. I think he’s a great OC.”
Some may see Leftwich’s close relationship to Tomlin and the team as a negative. But Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator hires have had close connections with the team be it internal promotions (Fichtner and Canada, who Tomlin knew prior to hiring him as quarterbacks coach in 2020) or external hires like Todd Haley, who worked as a Steelers ball boy and whose father was a longtime member of the team’s front office.
There will be plenty of time to suggest and talk about Canada’s replacement. That’s not something that’ll be decided until after the season wraps up. But Colon and Burress know who they want in that position next. And it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see Leftwich interviewed for the job.