The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to finally pull the plug on the Dri Archer experiment today. They released last year’s third round draft pick just after announcing they had claimed Jacoby Jones off waivers from the San Diego Chargers.
Archer if you remember was the NFL Combine darling of 2014. He put up solid numbers in just about every skill area and then blew the competition away when he ran a 4.2 forty. This was all very enticing and perhaps too much for the Steelers’ to have passed on as they drafted the diminutive Archer in the third round.
When you think “draft” you typically think about General Manager Kevin Colbert and while Colbert certainly is responsible for several poor selections in recent years, I don’t think we can put the failure of Dri Archer all on him.
Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley made no bones about the fact that he wanted a guy like Archer. While the head coach in Kansas City, Haley had a similar player in Dexter McCluster and he was hoping to catch lightning in a bottle twice by bringing aboard Archer. It just never clicked.
As hard as I’ve been on Colbert, the scouting department and the front office in general for this pick and many other failures, I think Haley and Head Coach Mike Tomlin are the ones who deserve the blame in this case.
After being used on offense last season, Archer never saw a snap in the regular season this year. Instead, his role was relegated to kick return duties and as Neal Coolong of USA Today pointed out, Archer was actually the 10th best returner in the league at the time of his release.
The problem for Archer was decision-making and reading blocks. Last week was a prime example when he took the kick from deep in the end zone, eventually ran backwards and was tackled at the eight yard line. Then, after the Bengals went up 16-10, Archer decided to kneel after receiving the kick just inside in the goal line. That was the exact moment he needed to be aggressive and get the Steelers as much yardage to start their final drive from as possible.
In my mind, those two instances along with the fact he was not part of the offense, led to his release today.
While I will always believe there is a way to use him offensively, Haley couldn’t figure it out or just chose not to with all the other weapons he had at his disposal. While I don’t think Archer will do much more with another team than he’s done with the Steelers, I won’t be a bit surprised to see him used in someone’s offense either and successfully.
It will take creativity and the right personnel around him but I think it can be done. What most will remember though is that the Steelers used a third round pick on Archer at a time when they could have been addressing other areas.
Blame whoever you want to for the selection but I don’t think this was on Colbert as much as some do.