By Alex Kozora
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ bye week provides the opportunity to take a much needed breath and review the team through its first 11 weeks.
We’ll start by reviewing each of third round rookie’s Dri Archer’s eight runs in 2014 and at the end, come up with a final evaluation.
- Week 1. 1st and 10. Gain of 4.
The play is a toss right with a split zone designed for the back to work across the formation to the left. The concept likely being thee defense flowing the wrong way given the toss and down blocking of the offensive line. By design, Archer would then bend the run back, follow the pulling block of Heath Miller, and find daylight.
To recap, we get zone blocks to the right and Miller pulling across the formation for the split zone action.
Unfortunately, Miller whiffs on his block. Archer recognizes this and decides to bail on the idea of following it, choosing to instead cut up the backside “A” Gap between Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster.
Issue here is Archer isn’t explosive in his plant and change of direction. Plants off the wrong foot, his right, instead of his left. Rolls through instead of a quick cut and he doesn’t hit the open lane like he should. Technique issue and perhaps one of Archer being too fast for himself. Not able to get himself under control and make decisive cuts.
It’s a respectable four yard gain but he doesn’t get anything more than what was blocked.
- Week 5. 1st and 10. Gain of 2.
Play is a toss to the right. Nothing done wrong by Archer on this carry. Backside reach blocks fail. Either Pouncey leaves his block too early or Foster is too late – typically, the front side block leaves once he feels the backside block secure – and defensive tackle Roy Miller chases Archer down from behind.
- Week 6. 2nd and 7. Gain of 4.
Out of the pistol, inside hand off with a power scheme by the line. Get a fold block between Pouncey and Foster. Pouncey pulls with Foster down blocking the DT. David DeCastro springs to the second level to seal off the linebacker and does a tremendous job of doing so.
Archer finds the lane and cuts upfield but falls down for a gain of just four. May have tripped over Pouncey’s foot. Tape makes it difficult to conclude.
Disappointing because it’s blocked well. Could have been an opportunity for a nice chunk of yards.
- Week 6. 1st and 10. Gain of 5.
Out of the pistol, and inside zone with Heath Miller acting as the lead blocker. Archer sees Cleveland Browns’ safety Tashaun Gipson rally downhill and responds nicely – planting off his inside foot, something he didn’t do in week one, to change directions and hit another hole.
The lane closes quickly and although you could argue the rookie should have run through the lane instead of covering up the ball, with all the bodies around him, I can’t blame a RB for wanting to protect the football in this situation.
- Week 6. 1st and 10. Gain of 15.
Inside zone to the left appears to be the playcall.
This is easily Archer’s best run of the year. Starts to the left and though there is a little bit of daylight in the strong side “A” gap, Archer decides to cut the run back across the formation. We get a glimpse of Archer’s speed and explosion.
He runs away from DT Desmond Bryant but more importantly, he scoots past cornerback K’Waun Williams to hit the edge.
Williams has a good angle on him, shown below.
And again from the aerial view.
Most backs are going to be brought down. Or at the very least, touched. Williams grabs air as Archer darts past.
The Kent State product turns upfield before ducking out of bounds for a gain of 15.
Only issue here is I would have liked to see is Archer stay in bounds, compete, and see if he could press this lane downfield. Instead, he powers down and saunters to the sideline.
Unlikely he could but let’s test out that 4.26 speed. Space has been scant for the rookie; should have taken advantage of it.
- Wk 7. 2nd and 10. Gain of 9.
Play is a fake bubble screen and then a draw to Archer. Trouble on the snap as Archer’s and Ben Roethlisberger’s feet get tangled up. The rookie stumbles but is at least able to maintain his balance.
The initial draw gets the linebackers to crash down and coupled with a seal by Darrius Heyward-Bey, creates a lane off the outside hip of the tight end.
He’s got space and only has to work through CB Jonathan Joseph. Archer throws out a weak stiff arm and is taken down around the legs by Joseph. Defenders get paid too, but I would’ve liked to see him run through this tackle. Bit disappointing and shows how weak Archer is running through contact.
Gain of nine but again, the rookie doesn’t get much more than what is blocked.
- Week Seven. 2nd and 8. Loss of 2.
Play is an inside zone out of the pistol. Not really Archer’s fault for the loss here. Perhaps he could have been a little quicker finding the hole but that could just be me seeing things I expect to see. Confirmation bias.
Whitney Mercilus sheds Mike Adams and fills the lane. Archer attempts to jump outside but is wrapped up and dropped. Mercilus has about 80 pounds on him so not going to fault the rook. It happens.
- Week Nine. 2nd and 3. Gain of 4.
Play is a draw with a more subtle fake to a wide receiver on a screen.. Archer presses the strong “A” gap. He does a nice job planting off the correct foot although I can’t tell if he bumps into Ramon Foster as he makes his cut.
Regardless, the issue here is Archer probably covering up too early instead of exploding through the hole. An arm tackle, albeit from a defensive lineman, is all it takes to bring him down.
170 pound backs covering up like that are basically conceding the play. And that’s what happens.
Honestly, these aren’t terrible plays. Bit better than what I expected although the limited sample size makes it difficult to read much into anything.
For a running back to have six of his eight carries go for 4+ yards is respectable. None of those coming in obvious passing situations, either that would skew the data.
Archer, as you’d expect, is clearly gun-shy running between the tackles. That might be his biggest issue as a runner. And aside from one play, we need to see him get more than what is blocked. Any runner can do that. You’re asking for more out of your third rounder.
Although subtle, I like the improvements seen in his footwork. Planting with the correct foot to help him laterally in his cuts.
Although I’ve said Archer is pressing and the team might be in turn, attempting to figure out how to get him involved, the release of LeGarrette Blount could be a big help. Making Archer the backup instead of this floating athlete without a real role. Force him to get involved, get some carries under his belt, and stop this concept of a touch here and there. Equivalent to dipping your toe in the water then getting out of the pool.
Receiving 3-5 carries a game will get him comfortable and give him some tape to learn from.
It’s a stretch, and a bold, borderline crazy prediction off what we’ve seen so far, but I think Archer shows something to Steelers’ fans for the rest of the stretch.