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Coaching Matters: 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers Coaching Staff Preview

Diontae Johnson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

After every NFL season, NFL teams take the time to evaluate not only the players but also the coaching staff and front office as well. While many teams choose to retain the same head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator, a few other teams opt to go in a new direction with their coaching staff.

The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to fire former offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, but otherwise, they will be bringing back many of the key coaching staff members from 2020. Mike Tomlin will return as the Steelers head coach and Keith Butler will be back as the team's defensive coordinator. Matt Canada is the only new coordinator, being promoted from the team's quarterbacks coach in 2020 to the team's offensive coordinator this year.

This article will look at the potential impact this coaching staff will have on the players and try to pinpoint the Steelers players' fantasy values in it.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

The Baseline

To get a better understanding of the value the Steelers coaches help bring to this team, we can look at the NFL league averages in each of the past two years in a variety of statistical categories and then compare them to the averages achieved by the Steelers' coaches. Here are 'The Baseline' NFL league averages over the past couple of years:

QB Impact

Year Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 League Average
34.87 251.78 1.56 3.56 15.04 0.16
2020 League Average 35.19 254.88 1.70 4.19 18.43 0.25

RB Impact

Year RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds. RB Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
21.77 92.96 0.68 5.10 6.64 40 0.19
2020 League Average
21.68 95.13 0.75 4.71 6.14 34.94 0.18

WR Impact

Year WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
12.05 19.59 158.39 0.95
2020 League Average
13.24 20.21 166.67 1.04

TE Impact

Year TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
4.70 6.88 50.99 0.38
2020 League Average
4.76 7.03 51.29 0.45

Defense Impact

Year Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play
Turnovers Forced
22.8 235 112.9 63.5 5.5 1.4
24.8 240.2 118.9 64.3 5.6 1.3

Previous Coaching Staff

In order to get an understanding of how the Steelers fantasy players may be impacted this year, we also need to take a look at how former Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner utilized his players during his time with the team. By doing this, we will have a better understanding of where the new coaches are starting from and where the primary changes will occur.

Former Offensive Coordinator: Randy Fichtner

QB Impact

Year Games Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 Steelers 16 31.88 200.88 1.13 2.69 7.31 0
2020 Steelers 16 41 258.06 2.19 2.13 1.56 0
Fichtner's Career Averages (OC/HC) 48 38.65 260.77 1.83 2.33 5.23 0.06

RB Impact

Year Games RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds.
RB Rec. TDs
2019 Steelers 16 21.5 80.38 0.44 5.69 6.69 39.75 0.25
2020 Steelers 16 20.13 76.88 0.63 3.75 5 23.5 0
Fichtner's Career Averages (OC/HC) 48 20.13 79.69 0.63 4.90 6.06 35.96 0.17

WR Impact

Year Games WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 Steelers 16 10.56 18.69 135.38 0.69
2020 Steelers 16 18.56 28.69 193.5 1.88
Fichtner's Career Averages (OC/HC) 48 15.60 25.06 178.42 1.35

TE Impact

Year Games TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 Steelers 16 3.31 4.75 25.5 0.19
2020 Steelers 16 4.44 6.94 41.06 0.31
Fichtner's Career Averages (OC/HC) 48 4.38 6.38 45.5 0.29

 

2021 Offense

2021 Offensive Coordinator: Matt Canada

QB Impact

Matt Canada College Offensive Coordinator/Head Coach Stats
Year Games Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
1997 Butler 10 33.20 211.80 1.20 6.70* 12.40* 0.20
2003 Northern Illinois 12 29.17 218.92 2.08 6.67* -6.67* 0.33
2007 Indiana 13 34.23 236.38 2.15 11.69* 57.00* 0.69
2008 Indiana 12 29.83 181.25 0.92 12.67* 49.50* 0.58
2009 Indiana 12 36.50 247.92 1.42 3.42* -0.75* 0.25
2010 Indiana 12 42.75 287.17 2.08 5.17* 4.25* 0.25
2011 Northern Illinois 14 29.00 241.86 2.07 17.07* 116.07* 1.00
2012 Wisconsin 14 20.64 156.93 1.07 4.36* -2.43* 0.00
2013 NC State 12 35.17 240.83 1.17 16.92* 48.50* 0.42
2014 NC State 13 29.23 204.00 1.85 9.92* 42.62* 0.23
2015 NC State 13 31.62 210.77 1.54 11.08* 29.31* 0.46
2016 Pittsburgh 13 24.62 221.69 2.15 5.85* 24.08* 0.23
2017 LSU 13 23.08 203.46 1.31 6.31* 9.31* 0.15
2018 Maryland 12 20.08 141.25 1.00 8.50* 12.42* 0.08
Canada's Career Averages (College OC/HC)
175 29.74 214.29 1.58 9.09* 29.21* 0.35

*College statistics include sacks as a rushing statistic

RB Impact

Matt Canada College Offensive Coordinator/Head Coach Stats
Year Games RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Rec. Yds. RB Rec. TDs
1997 Butler 10 30.70 124.40 1.10 2.40 14.70 0.00
2003 Northern Illinois 12 33.67 167.92 1.33 2.33 22.42 0.25
2007 Indiana 13 23.38 98.31 0.69 3.77 31.62 0.38
2008 Indiana 12 22.67 112.00 1.00 1.50 21.42 0.17
2009 Indiana 12 23.08 99.17 0.92 2.00 12.33 0.00
2010 Indiana 12 20.67 83.00 0.75 2.42 19.75 0.08
2011 Northern Illinois 14 21.29 105.29 1.36 2.36 28.14 0.29
2012 Wisconsin 14 39.21 233.93 2.71 2.29 29.93 0.14
2013 NC State 12 23.25 98.17 0.75 3.17 28.58 0.17
2014 NC State 13 25.54 140.54 1.46 3.92 36.15 0.54
2015 NC State 13 24.92 141.31 1.62 3.77 36.23 0.08
2016 Pittsburgh 13 25.15 123.54 1.46 2.08 28.62 0.31
2017 LSU 13 31.62 169.62 1.54 3.38 38.54 0.15
2018 Maryland 12 27.25 193.50 1.67 1.58 12.42 0.08
Canada's Career Averages (College OC/HC) 175 26.62 135.95 1.33 2.66 26.22 0.19

WR Impact

Matt Canada College Offensive Coordinator/Head Coach Stats
Year Games WR Rec. WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
1997 Butler 10 13.50 194.10 1.20
2003 Northern Illinois 12 14.33 189.83 1.58
2007 Indiana 13 16.15 193.92 1.69
2008 Indiana 12 13.00 143.17 0.75
2009 Indiana 12 18.67 217.50 1.25
2010 Indiana 12 20.75 230.17 1.42
2011 Northern Illinois 14 15.14 208.79 1.64
2012 Wisconsin 14 6.93 91.64 0.50
2013 NC State 12 14.92 186.83 0.83
2014 NC State 13 9.92 125.62 0.69
2015 NC State 13 7.31 93.69 0.46
2016 Pittsburgh 13 7.69 128.69 1.08
2017 LSU 13 7.23 131.85 0.69
2018 Maryland 12 8.00 122.00 0.83
Canada's Career Averages (College OC/HC) 175 12.27 159.89 1.04

TE Impact

Matt Canada College Offensive Coordinator/Head Coach Stats
Year Games TE Rec. TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
1997 Butler 10 0.00 0.00 0.00
2003 Northern Illinois 12 0.58 6.67 0.25
2007 Indiana 13 0.38 2.77 0.00
2008 Indiana 12 0.58 4.75 0.00
2009 Indiana 12 2.00 18.08 0.17
2010 Indiana 12 2.67 37.00 0.58
2011 Northern Illinois 14 0.57 4.93 0.14
2012 Wisconsin 14 2.86 33.43 0.43
2013 NC State 12 2.50 23.83 0.17
2014 NC State 13 3.31 40.69 0.62
2015 NC State 13 7.77 80.62 1.00
2016 Pittsburgh 13 3.00 50.54 0.38
2017 LSU 13 2.00 23.23 0.23
2018 Maryland 12 0.83 6.83 0.08
Canada's Career Averages (College OC/HC) 175 2.13 24.43 0.30

 

Matt Canada Takeaways & Expectations

The 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers will be the first time that Matt Canada will call plays at the level, but that doesn't mean he's inexperienced - Canada has spent 175 games in an offensive coordinator or head coaching role. While the college game is different from the NFL level, we can still make some inferences on how Canada's play-calling will look for the Steelers based on his college career.

In Matt Canada's college career as an offensive coordinator, his offense has averaged 29.74 pass attempts per game. But what's interesting is how few passing attempts his teams have attempted in recent years. In 2016, his team attempted 24.62 passes per game. In 2017, that number went down and his team attempted 23.08 passes per game. And finally, in 2018 Canada's team attempted just 20.08 passes per game. This trend suggests that the Steelers won't be throwing the ball 656 times (41 pass attempts per game) again in 2021 and that the Steelers passing offense could see significantly less usage.

Besides the passing numbers, for fantasy football purposes it's also important to look at some of the rushing numbers of Canada's quarterbacks during his time as an offensive coordinator at the college level. In his 175 game career as a college offensive coordinator, Canada's quarterback room has averaged 9.09 rushing attempts per game.

While sacks are considered a rushing statistic at the college level and may influence the quarterbacks rushing statistics, there's a lot of like in this area with a few seasons where his quarterbacks averaged 10+ carries per game. This is great information to know for the Steelers' next potential franchise quarterback. But for now, considering Ben Roethlisberger is relatively immobile at this stage of his career, we should expect minimal rushing usage from the team's quarterbacks in 2021. Overall, Ben Roethlisberger should simply be viewed as a streaming quarterback at best in 2021.

Jumping to the running back position, it's pretty difficult to compare the college level to the NFL since there can be more blowouts in the college game but we will do our best to project how Canada will use the Steelers' tailbacks. In the 175 games that Canada's been a college offensive coordinator, his running back room has averaged 1.33 rushing touchdowns per game and 26.62 carries per game.

While the college game doesn't translate directly to the pro game, one thing that is likely is that the Steelers will give their running backs the ball more with Canada than they did with Fichtner as the offensive coordinator (20.13 carries per game). Besides the number of carries, the distribution of carries is another important factor in determining a player's fantasy ceiling. So in terms of the distribution of carries, how often is Canada going to give the ball to one player versus rolling with a running back by committee approach?

Examining the data, Matt Canada took more of a bell cow approach the first couple years of his college coaching career but has sat around giving his lead back about 50% of the team's season running back carries in more recent years. Given the Pittsburgh Steelers just spent a 1st round pick on Najee Harris in NFL Draft, it's likely that Canada goes back to his roots of utilizing more of a bell-cow approach for the 2021 NFL season.

The final aspect we should look at concerning Matt Canada's running backs is how much he has traditionally utilized them as pass-catchers. Over the course of his 175 game college coaching career, Roman's running back room averaged 2.66 receptions, 26.22 receiving yards, and 0.19 receiving touchdowns per game. This usage seems to be a little below average from what we've seen from other offensive play-callers and may lower the value of the Steelers running backs in PPR formats.

Overall, Matt Canada should provide his running backs with more carries than Randy Fichtner did, has been successful with both the bell cow and running back by committee approaches, and will utilize his running backs slightly less than the typical offensive coordinator in the passing game. Based on this information, Najee Harris should be a strong RB2 for the 2021 season with the potential to creep into RB1 territory and the team's backup running backs may be worth monitoring as well.

Looking at the wide receiver position, Canada has seen his wide receiver room combine for 12.27 receptions, 159.89 receiving yards, and 1.04 receiving touchdowns per game over the course of his 175 game career as a college offensive coordinator.

As stated earlier, it's difficult to compare the college level to the NFL level. Having said this, it's going to be nearly impossible for Canada to provide the Steelers wide receivers room with a bigger workload than Randy Fichtner has provided. Last year, the Steelers wide receivers room averaged 18.56 receptions, 28.69 targets, 193.5 receiving yards, and 1.88 receiving touchdowns per game.

This workload for a wide receiver room was one of the highest marks the league has ever seen. There's nowhere to go but down and the Steelers wide receiver usage will undoubtedly scale back in 2021. Based on this information, it is likely one or more of the Steelers' three primary receivers (Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool) do not live up to their fantasy football expectations in 2021 and end up being a disappointment.

Finally, Canada's historical usage of tight ends is fairly mediocre. Over the course of his career as a college offensive coordinator, Canada's tight end room has averaged 2.13 receptions, 24.43 receiving yards, and 0.30 receiving touchdowns per game. From a fantasy football perspective, Eric Ebron should be viewed as a just streamer and not a player you target in your fantasy drafts.

 

Fantasy Relevant Players: Ben Roethlisberger, Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Kalen Ballage, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Tylan Wallace, and Eric Ebron

 

2021 Defense

2021 Head Coach: Mike Tomlin

Mike Tomlin has been one of the best defensive minds in football over the last couple of decades. He served as the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator in 2006 before being hired as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach in 2007. In his time as the Steelers head coach, the team has compiled a 145-78-1 record and never had a losing record. Given Tomlin's defensive background, let's take a look at the defensive statistics his teams have compiled over the course of his career as a defensive coordinator or head coach.

Year Games Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play Turnovers Forced
2019 Steelers 16 18.94 194.56 109.56 64.38 4.72 2.38
2020 Steelers 16 19.5 194.38 111.44 62.25 4.91 1.69
Tomlin's Career Averages (DC/HC) 240 19.10 211.26 93.65 61.35 4.97 1.58

 

2021 Defensive Coordinator: Keith Butler

Keith Butler has been coaching on the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2003 and been the team's defensive coordinator since 2015. Let's take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers team defensive statistics during Keith Butler's time as the team's defensive coordinator.

Year Games Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play Turnovers Forced
2019 Steelers 16 18.94 194.56 109.56 64.38 4.72 2.38
2020 Steelers 16 19.5 194.38 111.44 62.25 4.91 1.69
Butler's Career Averages (DC/HC) 96 20.09 222.59 102.35 62.55 5.20 1.61

The Steelers defense has been lights out the last couple of years, finishing above-average across the board in categories such as points allowed, passing yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, yards per play, and turnovers forced. Given Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler's history of success on the defensive side of the ball and the amount of talent the Pittsburgh Steelers have on defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST should be one of the first defenses (if not the first defense) off the board in your fantasy drafts.

 

Other Notable Assistants

Special Teams Coordinator: Danny Smith - Danny Smith has been the Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coordinator since 2013. He's also been a special teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles (1995-1998), Buffalo Bills (2001-2003), and Washington Redskins (2004-2012) as well as tight ends coach for the Detroit Lions (1999-2000).

QB Coach: Mike Sullivan - Mike Sullivan is new to the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff in 2021. He's been a quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants (2010-2011, 2015) and the Denver Broncos (2018) and also been an offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-2013) and New York Giants (2016-2017).

RB Coach: Eddie Faulkner - Eddie Faulkner has been the Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach since 2019. The Steelers have been the only NFL team that Faulkner has coached for.

WR Coach: Ike Hilliard - Ike Hilliard joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020 as the team's wide receivers coach. He's previously been an assistant wide receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins (2011), a wide receivers coach for the Washington Redskins (2012, 2014-2019), and a wide receivers coach for the Buffalo Bills (2013). He also played in the NFL as a wide receiver for the New York Giants (1997-2004) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2005-2008).

TE Coach: Alfredo Roberts - Alfred Roberts is brand new to the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff. He's been a tight ends coach in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-2006), Cleveland Browns (2007-2008), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-2011), Indianapolis Colts (2012-2015), and Los Angeles Chargers (2020). He also played tight end in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs (1988-1990) and Dallas Cowboys (1991-1993).

OL Coach: Adrian Klemm - Adrian Klemm got promoted from assistant offensive line coach to offensive line coach this past offseason. He previously spent time working in various roles for SMU (2008-2011) and UCLA (2012-2016) and played offensive tackle in the NFL for the New England Patriots (2000-2004) and the Green Bay Packers (2005).

DL Coach: Karl Dunbar - Karl Dunbar has been the Steelers defensive line coach since 2018. He's also been a defensive line coach for the Chicago Bears (2004), Minnesota Vikings (2006-2011), New York Jets (2012-2014), and Buffalo Bills (2015) at the NFL level.

ILB Coach: Jerry Olsavsky - Jerry Olsavsky has been the Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebackers coach since 2015. He played linebacker in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1989-1997) and the Baltimore Ravens (1998).

Secondary Coach: Grady Brown - Grady Brown is brand new to the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff in 2021. He was the defensive coordinator at McNeese State in 2020.

 

Enjoy this series? Be sure to check out all of the other 'Coaching Matters' team previews: Houston TexansJacksonville JaguarsIndianapolis ColtsTennessee TitansCleveland Browns, and Baltimore Ravens

 

Follow Eli Grabanski on Twitter: @3li_handles



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Khaos Williams5 days ago

Faces Carlston Harris In The Co-Main Event Of UFC Vegas 92
Angela Hill5 days ago

A Favorite At UFC Vegas 92
Luana Pinheiro5 days ago

Looks To Get Back In Win Column
J.T. Miller5 days ago

Scores Dramatic Game-Winner
Leon Draisaitl5 days ago

Extends Postseason-Opening Point Streak With An Assist
Ilya Mikheyev5 days ago

Dealing With Undisclosed Injury
Vinicius Salvador6 days ago

Moves Up To Bantamweight At UFC Vegas 92
Adrian Yanez6 days ago

Looks To Snap Losing Skid At UFC Vegas 92
Themba Gorimbo6 days ago

A Favorite At UFC Vegas 92
Ramiz Brahimaj6 days ago

Ends Layoff At UFC Vegas 92
Edson Barboza6 days ago

Headlines UFC Vegas 92
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