So far, through seven games into his rookie season, it seems that those who doubted the value of the selection of Dri Archer in the third round of the draft back in May have more ammunition than those who were for the selection.
The rookie running back slash wide receiver slash kick returner injured his ankle in the first game of the season, which caused him to miss the next two games.
In his five games played, he’s accounted for 46 total yards, with 37 yards on seven carries and nine yards on four receptions.
While he’s technically averaging 5.3 yards per carry—after runs of 15 and nine yards over the last two weeks—that’s not the kind of big play the 4.2-speedster is supposed to be bringing to this offense. Frankly, it’s only something we’ve seen thus far in the preseason.
Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 24 passes this year that have gone for 20 yards or more. None of them have gone to Archer. In fact, his longest reception has gone for seven yards. The Steelers also have six explosive plays on the ground this year—again, none of them from Archer.
More concerning is the fact that Archer is averaging only 17.9 yards per kick return on nine returns.
That ranks 59th in the league, and is the second-worst average among players who have returned at least five kicks. The only one trailing him is Ted Ginn Jr., who has seven return touchdowns in his career, including one on a punt return this year.
He has yet to even bring any of his returns out to the 20-yard line, though, admittedly, that has a great deal to do with some of the suspect blocking that has been taking place in front of him. The Steelers have been much better in coverage than on returns thus far.
But where does this leave Archer? Since playing 15 snaps in the season opener, he’s only been averaging four snaps per game. if the Steelers can’t find ways to get him out in open space to utilize his deadly speed, then they’re simply not doing their job.
The NFL posted a rookie watch list yesterday looking as some of the first-year disappointments, and, as you can imagine, Archer made that list as one of the “hype bunnies lost in the woods”.
For now, the Steelers don’t really have much choice than to keep plowing ahead with the slight back and hoping that he’s finally able to break one through.
You do see his unparalleled speed on the field at times, such as in the last game when he stumbled before rushing up the left side for nine yards.
Could the answer simply be giving him more opportunities, to try to force him into figuring it all out? After all, it’s difficult to make an impact on a game when you’re only give three or four opportunities to do so.