Week 4 Coaching Tree: The Holmgren Connection

When the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field tomorrow two branches of one of the biggest coaching tree’s in the modern NFL will clash.  Andy Reid, the Kansas City Chiefs head coach, and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin can both trace their coaching lineage to Mike Holmgren.  I hope the diagram below helps.


While they are essentially on different sides of the Holmgren coaching tree, it hasn’t stopped Reid from fielding tough teams on Sundays.  Reid is 3-3 all-time against the Steelers.  That includes the 23-13 victory Reid achieved last year at Arrowhead Stadium.  Both teams ended up making it into the playoffs last season as AFC wildcards, but their paths did not cross.  In Reid’s 18 seasons as a head coach, 14 in Philadelphia and four in Kansas City, he’s pretty much done it all.  Compiling a 163-111-1 record as a head coach, appearing in four straight NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl, the only thing missing from his resume is a Super Bowl win.  One thing Tomlin has accomplished.

The Steelers ran into the latest branch of Andy Reid’s coaching tree last week in Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and the results were ugly.  Pederson was Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City and they both run a very specific type of west coast offense predicated on ball control, screen passes, lack of turn over’s, lack of penalties, a stable of quick running backs and fundamentally sound defense.  It’s proven to be a time-tested, winning formula that Reid learned from Holmgren and modified to fit his team’s strengths.

Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs attempt to do exactly what the Eagles did last week; use quick passes and screens to mitigate an already poor pass-rush, make conservative throws and force the Steelers defense to tackle the Chiefs’ playmakers in space, and if coverage is tight, look for Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith to break the pocket and try to pick up yards with his feet.  Also look Andy Reid to test the middle of the Steeler’s defense which wilted under a constant barrage of big plays from the Eagles’ offense last week.

Reid will test the Steelers defense with running backs Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles on screens and power runs in order to force the Steelers defenders to shed blocks and tackle in space.  Also, Alex Smith will look for his favorite weapon, pro bowl tight end Travis Kelce, to do damage over the middle if the Steelers linebackers and secondary have similar performances to last week.  Especially considering the defense will be playing short-handed with star inside linebacker Ryan Shazier and safety Robert Golden both being sidelined this week.

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