Last May Steelers nation got a bit of a shock when Dri Archer out of Kent State was the pick in the 3rd round of the NFL draft.
Archer was brought in mainly as a kick return specialist and throughout the pre-season we learned his position on offense would be at running back.
Archer’s rookie season didn’t go as planned. He struggled in the return game average just 18 yards on 9 returns. He failed to impress as a runner, often being thrown like a rag doll by defenders.
It was just clear that Dri never really looked comfortable when he was on the field in his rookie season.
Dri needs to quickly figure out how to carve out his niche for this team or he’ll be out of a job soon. He’s too small to contribute on special teams as anything other than a returner, and he can’t be relied on as a backup to Le’Veon Bell.
With only a quick search, I believe there’s only one other “running back” in the NFL that’s listed a light as Dri, and that is Titans’ Dexter McCluster.
Even the tiny superstar Darren Sproles weighs nearly 20 pounds more than Archer.
Dri is just never going to be able to handle the pounding an NFL back takes, and you can’t run him between the tackles when he’s going to go down on first contact nearly every time.
All that being said, I don’t think Archer was completely a wasted pick, yet.
Dri has shown he has pretty good hands, and in the pre-season we saw his game-breaking speed on some big plays; typically when he caught the ball in open space.
Lance Moore was supposed to replace Jerricho Cotchery this season as a reliable target in the slot, but that never happened.
The Steelers could save 1.5 million in cap space by cutting Moore this off-season (and he’d only count for about 300K in dead money). That seems like a no brainer to me.
That leaves an opening at the 4th receiver spot behind Brown, Wheaton, and Bryant.
I believe Dri could be a really dangerous weapon in the passing game. Particularly using his speed on crossing routes underneath.
There’s still plenty of creativity that could happen with him on end-arounds and motioning him around the formation, but I’d like to see him focus on WR this off-season.
The Rams’ Tavon Austin is a very similar player to Archer and that’s where he’s played since coming to the NFL.
I do still think if Archer has any shot at being in the Steelers’ long term plans he has to become a better return man, but I don’t blame him completely for the struggles.
I believe there’s issues with the blocking on kicks, as really no Steelers returner had much success this season.
Ultimately Dri will just have to thrive where ever the Steelers put him, but I think that the Steelers will definitely add a running back this off-season. I’d be happy with Bell, a rookie/free agent, and Josh Harris going into next season at the position.
If the Steelers don’t want to throw away a 3rd round pick though, I think they’d be wise to try him somewhere other than in the backfield.