I’m as excited about seeing Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Dri Archer during the preseason as the rest of you, but that excitement will be a little bit tempered until I see him work as a true running back in a few of the exhibition games. If he can show that he can function, first, as a ball carrier at the NFL level, then his value really increases, in my opinion.
So why do I feel this way? I blame former Steelers running back Chris Rainey. Sure, not only is Archer a higher pedigree guy than Rainey, he also appears to have a higher football IQ than the former fifth-round draft pick. Oh, and he’s faster. Still, we all saw how Rainey struggled to get on the field as a rookie and that likely was because they didn’t have confidence in him as a true ball carrier. As a result, when he was inserted into games, he might as well have had a red flashing light on top of his helmet.
During a Friday night interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert addressed some of my concerns as it relates to Archer and him functioning as a true running back.
“Dri’s got unique speed and he’s running a lot just from a base formation because they want to give him some looks as a running back,” said Colbert. “Because he just can’t be a little change up specialty guy, because people will obviously know if Dri Archer’s in the game, there’s a good chance he’s doing something different.”
During the preseason, I could care less how many times Archer lines up in the slot or is sent out of the backfield on a wheel route. I want to see him carry the football. Outside zone, inside zone, power pikes – you get the drift. I know that he can likely handle the rest, but if he can’t run the football out of base looks, the other facets of his game won’t be as effective and I think that’s exactly what Colbert is saying as well.
As far as Archer’s return ability, I feel real good about that. Luckily, Colbert addressed that portion of his game Friday night as well.
“He needs to continue to grow as a returner,” said Colbert. “He’s only practiced punts in the past – punt returns. If he can master that, he can be a special return guy, because he’s an accomplished kick returner.”