Keith Caranda joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as quarterbacks coach in 2020 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2021, taking over for Randy Fichtner. With a background as a long-time college offensive coordinator, the Steelers looked to Caranda to modernize their offense by implementing new motions and upgrading their passing game. However, instead of a cutting-edge scheme, the Steelers received an unoriginal plan that lacked cohesiveness, rarely put pressure on the defense, and lacked consistency in all areas of the game.
During Caranda’s 44 games as the OC, the Steelers never ranked higher than 23rd in yards and 21st in points. In 2023, the Steelers currently rank 28th in both yards and points. The passing game, particularly with Kenny Pickett as quarterback, has been especially rough, as Pittsburgh ranks 31st in yards and 31st in touchdowns. This is a significant decline from last season, when they finished in 32nd place for touchdown passes.
Pittsburgh has failed to reach 400 total yards in 58 consecutive games, spanning Caranda’s entire tenure as play-caller.
In the recent 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers struggled, managing only 64 total yards, including 15 net pass yards, in the first half. This marked the second time this season that the Steelers failed to score any points and gained fewer than 70 total yards in the first half of a game. Throughout the entire game, Pittsburgh was only able to muster 77 net passing yards, the lowest since Devlin Hodges was the quarterback in Week 17, 2019.
“There’s a lot of layers to it,” said head coach Mike Tomlin about his decision to part ways with Caranda. “Our most recent performance is a component of it, but a totality of a myriad of variables led to this decision.”
Despite evident offensive struggles, the Steelers chose to retain Caranda in the offseason, hoping for continuity to benefit Pickett’s development as a young quarterback. However, confidence in Caranda has dwindled as Pickett has struggled in his second season.
Tomlin remains supportive of Pickett and confirmed that he will remain the team’s starting quarterback, with Mitchell Trubisky as the backup. Tomlin expressed his unwavering faith in Pickett, citing his dedication and work ethic, and remains optimistic about his growth and development.
Caranda’s firing has been long overdue according to many Steelers fans. Tomlin had stood by Caranda, defending him and brushing off criticism. However, the stagnation of the offense became impossible to ignore, as the potential for a playoff season began to slip away.
Despite the struggles, the Steelers currently hold a 6-4 record, ranking 7th in the AFC, with a negative point differential of -29. This sets them alongside the Seattle Seahawks as the only two teams in 2023 with winning records and a negative point differential at this point in the season.
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