Diontae Johnson’s on-field frustration in Cleveland extended beyond the game on Sunday, culminating in a heated argument with teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room. League sources revealed to ESPN that the altercation was eventually diffused by Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt, who emphasized the importance of team unity. Nevertheless, the clash left a lasting impact on the Steelers, contributing to the decision to part ways with offensive coordinator Matt Canada just two days later.
The tipping point for the coaching change came after the Steelers’ lackluster performance in the 13-10 loss to the Browns. Johnson, visibly upset with just two catches in the game, engaged in an animated sideline conversation with head coach Mike Tomlin. The frustration spilled into the locker room, with Johnson reportedly “chirping” at the coaches. This led to a heated exchange with Fitzpatrick, a three-time first-team All-Pro before Heyward and Watt intervened to prevent further escalation.
Despite the incident, sources indicate that the Steelers have moved past the altercation in their preparation for the upcoming game against the Bengals. The argument underscores the impact of the team’s offensive struggles on the players, as emotions flared amidst the disappointing on-field performance.
The Steelers’ decision to fire Canada marks their first in-season coaching change since 1941. Eddie Faulkner, the running backs coach, will assume the role of offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season. Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett expressed regret over the coaching change, emphasizing the need for collective improvement.
Faulkner, who has been with the team since 2019, acknowledged the bittersweet nature of the change, stating that the offensive staff felt they let Canada down. Despite the coaching shift, Faulkner highlighted a commitment to continuity in the offensive approach, with an emphasis on collaboration and unity among the coaching staff.
Under Canada’s tenure, the Steelers offense struggled, never surpassing 400 yards in his 45-game career. With a 6-4 record this season, the team faces challenges with a negative point differential and rankings of 28th in points per game, 28th in offensive yards per game, and 30th in passing yards per game. Tomlin cited Faulkner’s steady voice and communication skills in managing the running back room as key reasons for his selection as the new offensive leader. Faulkner emphasized collaboration and unity as he took on this new role alongside game-day play caller Mike Sullivan.