One of the reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted running back Dri Archer in the third-round of the 2014 NFL Draft is because they thought he would be able to help in the kickoff return game. However, seven games into the 2014 season, that hasn’t happened.
During his talk with the media Thursday, special teams coach Danny Smith was asked to talk about what needs to start happening in order to for Archer to start having some success on kickoff returns.
“It’s a process to be honest with you, it really is,” said Smith, who is in his second season with the Steelers, according to steelers.com. “You see a lot of guys come and go. You have a fast guy, a really fast guy. It’s a combination of things. He’s got to do better selling stuff (and) we have to do a better job blocking. It’s a combination of things but we keep working at it. I think he’ll be fine and it sure hasn’t shown yet but we have to get better there.”
During his career at Kent State, Archer returned 51 kickoffs for 1,436 yards with four touchdowns and that resulted in a 28.2 yard average. However, so far during his rookie season with the Steelers, he’s only averaging 17.9 yards a return on the nine he’s attempted with a long 23 yards.
Smith admitted Thursday that Archer’s likely pressing a little bit due to his lack of success so far.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” he said. “I think that’s human nature and I think its human nature for any athlete, let alone an inexperienced athlete.”
While Archer was the fastest player this year at the NFL scouting combine, Smith said Thursday that his young returner needs to understand that to be successful at the NFL level it takes much more than just speed.
“Right now he thinks it’s all about speed and as you know it isn’t. There are a lot of fast guys working at McDonalds that can’t play this game,” he said.
Archer, however, doesn’t have to worry about having to flip burgers anytime in the near future as Smith’s not ready to give up on him just seven games into the season.
“I love the guy. I’ll never give up on him because he works. It’s important to him, he wants to do well, this football team is important to him, he’s a hell of an athlete (and) he’s a hell of a worker,” Smith said. “He’s going to be a good football player but we’re going to through some growing pains right now.”
Archer’s growing pains could continue Sunday at Heinz Field against the Indianapolis Colts as their kicker Pat McAfee currently leads the NFL in kickoff touchbacks with 33 of them. As a result of that, the Colts lead the league in opponent average starting field position (23.4).
Even if Archer isn’t able to return a kick Sunday as a result of McAfee kicking out of the end zone, Smith is confident that the rookie will get himself on track once he registers his first big return.
“It only takes one play,” Smith said. “As soon as that kid makes a big play we’ll all be jumping on the bandwagon. We’ll all be celebrating, ‘Hey he’s what we thought he was.’ It will come. It really will. I’ve seen it too many times. (It’s) because of his work habits and because of his athleticism and because of his want to I think he’s going to be fine. And the sooner the better.”
The sooner the better indeed.