If the Browns can successfully protect Kessler by sustaining a pocket consistently, Cleveland can then begin going to work through the air. With two outside threats, it would seem natural for Cleveland to dial up a lot of deep passes on the edges. While this may be an effective play to run occasionally, head coach Hue Jackson should emphasize the middle of the field more.
This is due to both the personnel Pittsburgh presents, as well as their scheme. With a strong cornerback in William Gay on the left side, but an otherwise inexperienced unit, the Steelers use a lot of safety help. With Ross Cockrell starting on the other side, free safety Mike Mitchell spends a lot of time helping out on the right side.
The Browns’ initial instinct would be to go after Cockrell. While this may work early on, they must then adapt to a Pittsburgh defense which will help out on that side. Doing this comes in the form of working the middle of the field, an area where tight end Gary Barnidge always excels.
Pryor and Coleman also have the ability to make athletic plays in the open field, so finding them over the middle would be another effective way to jumpstart the offense. Then, when linebackers drop into coverage, the Browns can anticipate this and slip a screen pass to Isaiah Crowell or Duke Johnson. Most importantly, they must continue to work the middle of the field.
Using the middle of the field is most beneficial because it throws Pittsburgh’s defense off-balance. For an offense which will likely abandon the run game early on once again, they must at least do what they can within their passing attack to make the offense less predictable. Moving the ball around to different receivers and running unique routes is one way to do this.