PS Pro – 2020 Land Ho! Wildcard Sunday

Posted: January 11, 2021 in All Things Power Spread
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Welcome to the 2020s. PS Pro synching up College and Pro Football for the first time in 80 yrs!

Aggressive Flexible Variety. The exploration began with Aggression early last Century. Moved into Variety in the 2nd part of that Century. Now, early in this Century Flexibility will fully be explored.

Change can be tough, but if resistance is released and the “new” embraced, it can be miraculously transformative.

Perfection found not from our limited perceptions, but from our higher selves.

Power dynamically linked to Spread.

2020 – Ushering in the Age of Flexibility

For Playoff Preview - Scroll Below

I called for Age of Flexibility last year and we got it. Big time. 2020 ushered in THE CHANGE. Adapt and grow or move on. It took the stubborn NFL 20 years to catch up to what was going on in the College Game. Let’s hope our World adapts a little quicker.

Football Evolution – Pro vs College

Last year I spoke of the complete “merging” of NFL and College concepts for the first time since they effectively separated in the 1940s.

At that time, the NFL developed the Modern T, while College gravitated to the burgeoning Option Football Ideal. Timing & Execution vs Repetition & Improvisation. SpaceTimeTeam explored from within the details of knowledge vs knowledgable exploration into the unknown. Truth + Discovery. Power Spread.

The Yin and the Yang – The Power and the Spread

As the 1960s approached, the NFL began to explore the Pro Concepts of Sid Gillman in both the Spread Run Game (Packer Sweep/Zone Blocking) and the Spread Pass Game (The Original West Coast Offense), while Colleges were meshing a simpler version of Pass and Option Run Concepts (Wishbone/Flexbone/Twin Veer/Pro Veer).

By the 80s, Don Coryell’s Gillman Spread Pass Attack gave way to Bill Walsh’s evolved West Coast Spread Pass Scheme, while Joe Gibbs perfected the West Coast Power Run Scheme. Colleges began to perfect their own WC Offense in the form of BYU’s Pass Spread Attack. Again, a simpler WC pass design with more improvisation.

The College Option Game – a game of Improvisation – led to a QB improvised BYU Offense and finally a WR improvised Run & Shoot Passing Spread. Originally created by Tiger Ellison in the 60s – a precursor to Power Spread – Mouse Davis turned it into the first true Spread Pass attack.

In the meantime, Hal Mumme & Mike Leach were morphing the BYU Scheme into a pure Spread attack by marrying ideas from both the WC and R&S pass attacks. This new Air Raid Offense of the 90s led to both the Pro and College Spreads of the 00s.

In the middle of all of this came Rich Rodriquez’s accidental discovery of the Read Option while coaching his R&S Offense in the 90s. Option Run Power seamlessly integrated with Option Pass Spread. Finally after 50 years, Football found a way to match together Power + Spread.

Power Spread – A Dynamic Dichotomy

The Seed of Evolution was planted. The PS Triumvirate in the 00s – Urban Meyer / Gus Malzahn / Art Briles – grew the Tree from all the concepts described above.

Colleges implemented an integrated, improvised, option-oriented version of Spread – Power Spread, while the NFL struggled to find a cohesive balance between their Pro Power Runs and Pro Spread Passing Attacks. A fractured Pro-Multiple or Multiple-Pro Offense.

Finally in the decade that followed, the Pro Multiple WC Spread System was married to PS. First by Jim Harbaugh in a Pro based PS Option system, then cemented by BYU Alum, Andy Reid, in a full RunPassOption(RPO) or Pro PS Offense.

As Defenses reacted accordingly, PS concepts spread fast. By the time we got to 2020, NFL and College Schemes – both on Offense & Defense – looked more similar than they had in 80 years.

College has now added more Pro concepts back to its PS base, while NFL Teams are experimenting with PS as their base as well. PS Pro!- PS

Pro+College Reunited – Pro PS > PS Pro > PS 2020 > Full PS

Almost every Football Team at any level now uses some version of PS Concepts. One thing that keeps the Pro game slightly separated from College is the actual term, “PRO”.

Colleges use Power Spread as its base concept – PS Pro, PSAR, PS 2020 – while most of the NFL still uses Pro concepts as its base- Pro PS, Pro PSAR, Pro PS 2020 or PS Pro 2020. Now, the NFL is also experimenting with PS based concepts in the form of PS Pro and PSAR Pro.

The NFL still loves to work within the details of their knowledge, while Colleges press forward into unchartered territory. Pro PS and PS Pro 2020 differ from PS 2020 in their approach. Reaching back to old concepts and refurbishing them into something new. Gillman+, Pro PS Gillman and PSWC, along with older concepts dating back to the Modern T and Single Wing, have been explored over the last two years.

The NFL has the Time & Talent to experiment with such details, while College has the Space – in terms of leeway – to take chances with new ideas. Over the next decade, these Pro PS 2020, PS Pro 2020 and PS 2020 Schemes will begin to form the Full PS, which will be Aggressive, with Variety and Flexibility, so as to be Executable for any type of Player, yet Deceptive for any type of Opponent.

Simple Brilliance. Aggressive Flexible Variety in Personnel – to suit any style of scheme. Where Timing does not get bogged down in execution, but creates Space Exploration. Where Space does not get bogged down in repetition, but creates Timing Improvisation. The Power of Discovery is allowed to flourish within the Spread of Knowledge. The Full Power Spread.


Wildcard Sunday

If there was ever a year where Flexibility was needed, 2020 was IT!! Covid dominated the World of Football as well as the World at large. Rosters were pushed to their limits. Many teams were scrambling all year to come up with enough players to keep the Games going. There were also an abundance of disruptions and distractions like we have never seen before.

None of us could possibly know all the disruptions that happened week to week in practices. Continuity and Consistency are the key to building anything in the world of Sport. For such a massive Team Sport like Football, it’s even more important. This year in general, and specifically, has truly been a Shitshow!

Going forward, it almost seems like an oxymoron to make any sort of analysis for these playoffs, let alone a prediction. This is one time where being a part of the team and seeing the behind the scenes is imperative to have any clue about what is going to happen.

I like to keep my analysis relegated to the Field of Play, but this particular year, I will have to also take into account disruptions due to Covid. So here we go…

Baltimore at Tennessee

Tennessee had the upset run of all time last year, beating up on New England and Baltimore on the road, before losing to eventual Super Bowl Champ Kansas City. RB Derrick Henry ran for 200+ yards versus Baltimore in the playoffs then another 100+ against them this year as the Titans won again on the road in what was expected to be a revenge win for the Ravens. Will 3 times be a charm?

Titans Tough

Last year, it seemed no one took the Titans seriously in the playoffs until KC. Tennessee just lined up and ran over NE, who besides being completely flat emotionally (and physically beaten up), played a ridiculous scheme on Defense. They played their lighter personnel almost the whole game while the great Titans Oline and RB overpowered them and kept the ball away from Brady and the NE offense.

Baltimore, not surprisingly, played a heavier run package on D, but was simply overconfident. I detailed one such play where the Ravens were just trying to strip the ball, showing no respect to the Titans or Henry, looking for the big play and easy win instead of buckling down and playing tough football.

Titans OC Arthur Smith called a great game, using a ton of Play-Action and Mis-Direction to make the Ravens aggressive Defense hesitant and set up Henry for a huge 2nd Half. The Ravens own Offense, for the 2nd Playoff Season in a row, was too conservative and didn’t finish drives early. By the time their Offense got going, it was too little too late.

The matchup this year took place in the middle of a Covid Outbreak for the Ravens after a great start to the season. Even then, the Ravens were able to hold Henry without a big run until the 4th Quarter as they built up an 11 point lead.

Again, the Play-Action Mis-Direction Scheme of the Titans was fantastic as QB Tannehill looked better than last year. The Ravens also continued to struggle finishing drives as they did the year before.

In the end, Tannehill hit all the big passes to lead a late drive and take a 3pt lead. The Ravens had a chance for a last second TD, but again had to settle for a FG. In OT, Tannehill was excellent and the beat up Ravens looked exhausted on the last play as Henry finished the game with a big TD run.


The Ravens run a more advanced PS Pro system than most of the NFL, where Pro PS still dominates the landscape. On Defense the Ravens unpredictable Psycho Pressure is alive and well under DC Don Martindale. HC John Harbaugh always does a good job on SpTeams as he was a former ST Coach.

The Ravens are ahead of the NFL scheme curve and are leading the way to PS Pro 2020 innovations around the bend, but Harbaugh does tend to get conservative on Offense at Playoff Time. I don’t remember this so much when his Offense was more of a Pro Spread with QB Joe Flacco. I don’t know if more of the blame should go to OC Greg Roman, but they have to take off the playoff shackles and let talented QB Lamar Jackson do his thing. No Risk, No Reward.

As I said above, the Titans Arthur Smith does a great job at setting up Henry for his power runs. You actually don’t see all the rush yardage – at least vs the Ravens – until after the tricky play-action pass game has the Defense on its heels and primed to get run over.

The Titans Defense is the one weak link in this scheme matchup. Long time coach, Dean Pees, retired leaving Tennessee without an official DC. HC Mike Vrabel is a defensive coach and also hired longtime defensive mind Jim Haslett, who learned under the best – Zone Blitz Master, Dick LeBeau.

Ironically, Dean Pees was the DC on the Ravens before his time with Tennessee. My guess is that while Vrabel, who learned from Bill Belichick, and Haslett are aggressive, this Defense won’t be as aggressive as they were with Pees, but they may mix more and be more tricky with their Coverages.

The transition is the part that concerns me. Especially when Haslett hasn’t been a DC for a while and Vrabel has time consuming Head Coaching duties.


Talent wise, the Ravens have made better trades and had a nice draft this year with RB Dobbins and LB Queen, among others, contributing all year in a positive way. Calais Campbell, when available, has really helped on the DLine and mid-season acquisition, Yannick Ngakoue, has added to the pass rush.

The CBs are strong with top tier talent in Peters & Humphrey and they have a lot of speed everywhere for their high pressure blitz schemes.

Tennesse on the other hand has not had the same success this year with their acquisitions or draft. A big bust this year was Jadeveon Clowney, who’s been out all year with a knee injury.

No one in this year’s draft has done much. #2DP CB Kristian Fulton was expected to contribute but has struggled with injuries and also had Covid. #1DP OT IsaiahWilson was looked at as a possible replacement for a big Free Agent loss in Jack Conklin. Instead Wilson has had personal issues all year and Covid as well.

As good a year as Henry has had again (2000+ Yds), the OLine for the Titans is not what it was last year. Conklin was replaced by Dennis Kelly – who’s decent at both run and pass blocking, but no Conklin. The LT, talented Taylor Lewan, went down for the year with an ACL injury and his backup Sambrailo just was loss with a knee as well.

HC Vrabel has built a great culture here fast. They have good coaches and enough talent to find themselves at 11-5 and in the playoffs again. But it wasn’t easy. There were a lot of close wins, thanks to a great year from Tannehill and the schemes of OC Smith.

Covid / Injury Factor

As I said above, Baltimore was hit hard by Covid in the middle of the year. They also were hit with injuries at the same time. None bigger than their star LT Ronnie Stanley who is out for the year.

The good news is both the injuries and covid settled down and they won 5 straight to finish the regular season.

Now it’s the Titans who have the issues. Not so much with Covid, though they had to deal with losses throughout the season, but with injuries. They have been banged up all year with their Back 7 and without their former DC Pees, they have struggled a lot of the year on Defense.

My biggest concern is that they are down to their 3rd LT – who’s really a G – on the Oline. Also, top WR AJ Brown is banged up as well. The Ravens had a rough middle of the year, but they have the edge at present.

Prognostication – Ravens hang on this time

Baltimore has the Talent, Scheme and Injury edge at the moment. I feel they were the better team in their 2018 playoff loss and their last two losses to the Titans. They are fired up to finally prove it and I think they well.

Henry was held in check for most of their last matchup and I expect the same again. I also expect more resistance vs the Titans pass game, as the Ravens won’t have the disruptions in practice like they did when they played during their Covid outbreak.

The Ravens D is talented in an aggressive PS Scheme. The Titans LT situation is not good and this could lead to big plays by the Raven’s D down the stretch.

Also, I don’t expect a beat up Titan D in schematic transition to be able to hold down the Ravens Offense for a whole game.

The one advantage for Tennessee is the home field. There will be more fans than the other stadiums doing this pandemic. Vrabel will have his team prepared and playing hard in front of this raucous home crowd.

Because of the Home Field, I can see the Titans jumping in front early. If they do, then OC Smith can’t get too conservative, as I don’t see the Ravens letting Henry run on them. And they have the Offensive firepower to get back in the game.

Smith also can’t hit the panic button if Tennessee falls behind. Tannehill’s had a great year, but he’s not so great as simply a one dimensional spread pass QB without a PS scheme behind him

As long as Harbaugh doesn’t get too conservative, there are just too many signs trending for Baltimore. They finally get their revenge on the Titans and the playoff monkey off their back.

Chicago at New Orleans

After a great start to the year, the Bears struggled to get into the playoffs at 8-8. New Orleans is solid as always. They have the Talent, the Schemes and production in all 3 phases. And now a healthy Drew Brees. This is the one Wildcard game that may not be competitive.

In fact, a case can be made that Arizona, with HC Kliff Kingsbury’s innovative schemes and burgeoning culture, would have made for a better matchup. In a season of near misses, Arizona lost their star PS QB, Kyler Murray, in the last regular season game, costing them the game and a playoff tiebreaker with the Bears!

Da Bears! – Replacing a top Defensive Mind

Bears HC Matt Nagy, like Kingsbury, has accomplished much in a short time. The Bears have made the playoffs 2 out of the 3 years Nagy has been the coach and have been in contention all 3 years. Nagy has improved the overall morale and talent of the Team in resuscitating the Culture in quick order.

The struggle for Nagy, unlike Kingsbury, has been his schemes. Kingsbury is a Mike Leach Air Raid guy and has morphed to a PSAR and now PSAR Pro. He’s innovative and fun and is accumulating the athletes he needs to make it work. On Defense, Kingsbury made a great hire in Vance Joseph, who’s Aggressive Mix is cutting edge PS Pro – possibly PS 2020 concepts.

Nagy, on the other hand, has already had to switch both of his Coordinators during his short tenure. He wisely kept his first DC, Vic Fangio, from the prior regime, but had to hire a new DC after his first year as Fangio graduated to his first Head Coaching job in Denver.

Pagano, who has influences from his brother John(Wade Phillips Aggressive Mix), Jimmy Johnson (4-3 Speed Zone) and Baltimore (Agg Psycho Mix), knows his stuff and runs a good scheme. He is also an experienced top tier coach in dealing with players and teaching technique. With talent, he will field a top defense, but he’s not going to run cutting edge schemes like the man he replaced.

Da Bears! – A Method to Nagy’s Offensive Madness

Nagy has also done a good job with personnel on both sides of the ball. Working around limitations and finding diamonds everywhere. As with the Defense, the issue on Offense is solidifying the scheme. After the 2019 season Nagy fired most of his entire offensive staff.

Nagy’s original OC was Mark Helfrich of Chip Kelly/Oregon fame. Helfrich has a Gillman West Coast background mixed with his PS influence from Kelly. He’s more about the Spread Pass, though, than the full Power Spread.

Nagy is an innovative offensive mind who, like his mentor Andy Reid, looks for run/pass PS balance. He hired Bill Lazor (Gibbs OneBack, Power Pro, WC Power, Chip Kelly PS) and John DeFeilippo(Doug Pederson-RPO) to help transition from a Pro PS to PS Pro. Less Pro Spread mixed with Power Runs. More Power balanced with a Spread that attacks and opens Space with RPO Timing Routes.

The Offensive Scheme worked well with his young talent this year. RB Humphrey powered for 1000+ yards, opening space for WRs Robinson, Miller and rookie Mooney all to have good years. Injuries on the Oline really hurt the Offense down the stretch, but Nagy is headed in the right direction.

Da Saints! – Sean Payton – An Offensive Master

HC Sean Payton has a long time successful Culture in place in New Orleans. Except for the recent playoff jinx, the Saints have been the most consistently successful team over the last decade. Payton constantly replenishes Talent, expertly mixing in top young talent with solid vets.

He’s even doing it with his star QB and decade long leader, Drew Brees. Brees is nearing the end and starting to struggle physically, but Payton has found a way to mix in All-Everything Taysom Hill regularly so that he’s ready to go when Brees is on the sideline.

What I love about Payton is what he does with his PSWC Offense. What people don’t know is that his original experience was as a player in the Run&Shoot pass spread scheme. He has seen it all.

Sean Payton’s Background
  1. Eastern Illinois – Al Molde R&S
  2. AFL – Arena Football – Quick Spread Pass (West Coast Spread)
  3. San Diego State – Dave Lay OneBack Power (Coryell/GIBBS, Lubick,Tollner)?,
  4. Indiana State – Dennis Raetz (Dick Jamieson(Gillman/Coryell, JuneJones))
  5. San Diego State pt2 – Bret Ingalls / Curtis Johnson (Erickson/Gilbertson 1Back)
  6. Miami Ohio – Randy Walker (Kevin Wilson(Pro Power + Power Spread + Air Raid))
  7. Illinois – Paul Schudel (Bo Schembechler Pro Power)
  8. Eagles – John Gruden / Bill Callahan – West Coast / West Coast Pro Spread
  9. Giants – Jim Fassel (Gillman/Coryell/Walsh, Riehlman (Jack Curtice (Dutch Meyer Spread(Rusty Russell)))
  10. Cowboys – David Lee (Gus Malzahn PS WildCat )
  11. Todd Haley – Pro WC Spread
  12. Anthony Lynn – Pro PS

So it really comes as no surprise what he is doing with QB/RB/WR/TE Taysom Hill as an old style Single Wing Tailback that can do everything. A 1920s throw back. I’m still waiting for Hill to Punt the ball from a single wing old punt formation.

Originally Payton ran a Pro WC style Offense at New Orleans. Short horizontal routes designed to get the ball out of Brees’ hand quick. But he always mixed in Pro Power runs in OneBack sets, which are prevalent in his background.

Recently he morphed to Pro PSWC, adding in RO/RPOs from a Pro Spread. Mixing in much more mis-direction play-action off the power and power off the pass spread.

With the addition of Wildcard Hill and more Fly Sweep runs by WRs, I really like to call Payton’s Offense simply PSWC. I feel he bases more out of PS ideology now than Pro. His Offense only uses Pro sets as part of a package and spends a lot of time in Spread and Bunch Sets with more variety in play design.

Da Saints! – Dennis Allen – A DC Payton can Trust

Payton isn’t so good on the other side of the ball and has struggled to find the right guy to take over the Defense. He won a Super Bowl by keeping his hands off the Defense and trusting Gregg Williams’ aggressive 4-3 during that time. Since then he has struggled. Especially with the super innovative Rob Ryan.

Rob is the son of brilliant defensive mind Buddy Ryan and brother of Baltimore’s Psycho Scheme that all of Football uses now – Rex. Rob has never gotten his due as a 3-3 innovator that is still in the process of taking over Defensive Football as the most flexible PS Defense of the future.

Payton brought in Dennis Allen to work with Ryan and eventually handed over the reigns to Allen, who is big on mixing coverages from a hybrid 4-3 scheme. Always a solid DC, Allen evolved into much more Aggressive Variety thanks to his experience with Ryan.

Allen’s new 4-3/3-3 hybrid Defense mixes in different zone blitzes as well as tricky m2m/zone coverages. His own understanding of coverage optimizes the Passive Aggressive Ideal – creating Illusion Confusion for the Offense with simple Coherent Clarity for his own players.

Payton provides him with the Talent and then lets Allen and the Defense do their thing. This enables Payton to concentrate on his expertise – Offense and running a Football Team. Not surprisingly, the past 3 years have arguably been Payton’s best run as Saints Head Coach.

Prognostication – Da Saints!

Da Bears are limping into this game with a lot of players missing or beat up. IF that weren’t the case, then I’d give them a chance at being competitive and maybe even winning. But versus a talented Saints team hitting on all cylinders right now, it doesn’t look good.

Covid Factor/Injs – Bears hit hard!

From the beginning, the Bears had issues. Needing to find a CB and add depth this off-season, they did both. In fact they found 2 CBs – a former #1DP and a CFL star. Both were gone with injuries before the season even began. Then a SS acquisition and their star NT opted out of the season due to Covid.

Soon after, their Kicker was out for the year. The Bears lost 2 PRs as well! Nagy, like his mentor Reid, puts a lot of focus on Special Teams and somehow he and his STeams coaches saved the day. They resuscitated K Carlos Santos into having his best year ever! KR Patterson made the Pro Bowl and P O’Donnell wasn’t far behind.

Nagy’s continuing talent infusion, plus his improved OScheme and his top tier Special Teams kept the Bears playing well early. Then players started testing covid positive and injuries began to pile. Their OLine seemed to suffer a new injury almost weekly, which really hurt their progression with the new scheme.

PS QB Trubisky was benched for better Spread Passer Foles and then was injured. Foles played well enough, but then he was injured and Trubisky returned to play some of his best football ever. Still, the Offense could only go so far due to all the Oline injuries.

They squeaked into these playoffs and now learned that they will be missing their star ILB Roquan Smith and their talented rookie WR Mooney! I feel Nagy is putting together something special in Chicago, but he needs a little more time and a little less disruption.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh

Speaking of Covid…HOLY HEADACHE BATMAN! – Cleveland is a mess! The Steelers WERE a mess and after an undefeated start, lost 3 in a row. They look to have righted the ship and are the big favorite heading into an empty Heinz Field Sunday night.

Kevin Stefanski is Da Man!

The Browns have been a fractured organization for a long time. Jimmy Haslem took over ownership in 2012 and made a lot of changes, almost yearly, without much success, until he brought Kevin Stefanski on board.

Stefanski has created a cohesion and culture in one year that hasn’t existed on the Browns in decades. He hired a talented Chief of Staff to help implement his vision across all areas of the organization. He hired coaches with the same vision.

Haslem, to his credit, finally hired the right GM in Andrew Barry – a youthful but experienced Harvard Graduate with a PS Vision for the Future. Haslem has tried this before – hiring a Harvard Grad to GM – and surrounding him with other highly educated hot-shots with a new way of doing things.

After that failed, he went back to a well respected, old-school GM who knew talent, but nothing about a Vision for the Future. He also hired an old school Head Coach with new school ideas in Hue Jackson, but again, not enough of a Vision to bring cohesion to a very frayed organization.

Finally, with Barry and Stefanski, Haslem seems to have struck gold. Stefanski may not have the most progressive Schemes and inherited a lot of his Talent thanks to the efforts of other coaches, but he has a clear, consistent vision that comes through in everything he does.

Do yourself a favor and watch some interviews with Stefanski. Read some articles, such as the ones linked above, on how he operates. He has an impressive presence and is solid as a Rock.

The Browns had a lot to deal with this past week. Players and coaches are missing, practices were disrupted, and even Stefanski won’t be on the sideline for this game due to Covid. But I have a feeling the Browns will be fired up and ready to go – even while they may be undermanned.

There is a belief and excitement on this Team – and even in the City of Cleveland itself – that has not been there for a long time.

Steelers – Tomlin’s new brand of Defense is finally flourishing

Mike Tomlin finally has the Scheme and Talent to match on Defense for the first time since he let Zone Blitz PS Legend DC Dick LeBeau go in 2015. While LeBeau is one of the great innovators of all time – influencing every style of Defense you see in Football today – his 3-4 Zone Blitz Cover 3 scheme was becoming too inflexible for the future PS Defenses to come.

A top-notch Defensive Mind himself, Tomlin saw that a change was needed. More of a Coverage mix. Cover 2, Tampa 2(Tomlin’s background) and some Quarters mixed with M2M. Plus less adherence to the 3-4 and more hybrid 4-3/3-3 with a pressure blitz mix from everyone, anytime, from anywhere on the field. A more advanced concept of Team Defense.

His Defensive Personnel was also aging and changing. The Front 7 continued to excel, mainly because of the continued influx of talent at LB. The DB situation was not the same. It took some time, but this year the Steelers have the DBs to match.

Tomlin’s scheme on D took some time to flesh out as well. Evolving and transitioning a scheme is not easy. Now with the Talent+Scheme fully in place, Technique Implementation in practice happens quicker and easier, leading to success on the field.

Steelers – Covid disrupts the Offense

After being the only undefeated team past the halfway mark in the season, the Steelers hit on some rough times. Mainly due to failures in the Offense. First the Run Game, followed by the Pass Game.

The Steelers are dealing with some transition in their Oline – similar to what they dealt with the last few years in their Defensive Backfield. Age + Talent Influx is creating some chaos up front, which is hurting their running game.

Covid/Injs made it worse. The Steelers don’t have one great RB anymore, but are solid enough with several good RBs. That was before players started missing practice and games – both at RB and up front on the Oline. The Run Game quickly went from average to non-existent.

This put all the pressure on the Steelers Pass Game. Big Ben was having a good year until all the covid disruptions. First by other teams postponing games. Then by his team’s own covid outbreak.

The Steelers Pass Game is a Pro Spread based on Timing. QB Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best, but this type of scheme needs consistent practice to be in sync with his talented, but young WRs. PS DSchemes of today, with so much Aggressive Variety, require high execution for any Timing Pass Offense to work.

The disruptions and absences due to covid and injuries seem to have settled down for the Steelers. They won the rest of their games after a 3 game losing streak, save the last game of the year, vs this same Cleveland team, as the Steelers were resting key players.

Prognostication – Pittsburgh, but not as easy as it looks

Yes, Cleveland is dealing with a lot this week. Yes, even though the Browns have talent, the experience edge is for Pittsburgh. Yes, Tomlin’s DScheme is really working now and Big Ben and the Offense seem to be back in sync after a rough Covid patch.

But…. as I said above – the Browns are dialed in right now and fired up. There is no substitute for Belief and Faith.

Browns Talent and Schemes – Offense

QB Baker Mayfield, RBs Chubb & Hunt, WRs Landry & Beckham, TEs Hooper & Njoku. A dynamic array of skill players that any team would be happy to have on their roster. Add to that 2 talented OTs – #1 Draft Pick Jedrick Wills and top Free Agent acquisition, Jack Conklin – to an already solid Oline and it is easy to understand the success the Browns have had this year with their Pro PS Offense.

Stefanski runs a decent Pro PS scheme with a lot of play-action/mis-direction, but nothing too innovative or aggressive. I personally would like to see more PS Variety – QB runs and Breaking Tendency in both Sets and Design. In other words, PS Pro. At least Stefanski does use Mayfield’s athleticism on rollouts. His Offense is built on Power, Execution and his strong Play-Calling.

Browns Talent and Schemes – Defense

DC Joe Woods is a Monte Kiffin Tampa 2 guy who actually coached with Tomlin in the past. He also recently coached under Wade Phillips Aggressive 3-4/2-4 M2M Defense and Vance Joseph’s tricky hybrid scheme.

Like Stefanski on Offense, Wood doesn’t run anything too innovative, but he is good at what he does. The Browns have accumulated decent talent on this side of the ball as well.

DE Myles Garrett is one of the best and joined on the other side by another strong pass rusher in Olivier Vernon. The DTs Richardson & Ogunjobi are underrated. Especially the disruptive Richardson. Second year LBs Takitaki & Wilson, plus young DB dynamos Harrison & Ward round out the Defense.

The problem again is player attrition. Both Vernon and Ward are out for this game. Ward is their best M2M Corner. Some of the depth on Defense is also out for this game.

Just too much for the Browns to overcome

The Browns have had an amazing turnaround and now play in Heinz Field where there won’t be the usual psycho Steeler Fans. This is a break that the Covid ridden, beat up Browns can use to their advantage.

The problem is the Steelers seem to have overcome their earlier Covid disruptions. This is the best Steeler Defense since LeBeau left and they will apply a lot of pressure. They also have a strong pass attack with Big Ben throwing to Shuster, Claypool, DJohnson and Washington.

Cleveland lost big to Pittsburgh back in October when they were still getting used to their new coach and schemes. They also didn’t have star RB Chubb for that game. The Steelers were healthy and on a roll.

This game should be closer. How close depends on the kind of focus the Browns were able to have in practice this past week and what mindset they take into this game. Remember, the Steelers aren’t as healthy either. Right now, they are missing three of their best defenders in LBs Bush & Dupree and CB Joe Haden (Covid).

The Steelers D will pressure the Browns, but may give up some big chunk plays with those 3 players missing. If the Browns keep their focus and avoid big mistakes, this game will be a battle.

In the end, the Steelers D plus Big Ben and the passing game are just too much. The Browns future suddenly looks strong with Stefanski, but having to face the Steelers after dealing with so much this past week may just be too much to overcome.


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