It’s quite rare for the Pittsburgh Steelers to carry just two active running backs on game day, but that is what they did when they elected to set Dri Archer as one of their seven inactive players for Sunday’s game against the Bengals.
It was the first time in the rookie’s young career that he was a healthy scratch. He missed two games earlier in the season due to injury, but has seen time in every other game in which he was healthy, even if it was for just a snap or two.
Of course, in those rare instances in which the Steelers have just two active running backs—which was the case, for example, in the two games that Archer missed—the team would not hesitate to use fullback/tight end Will Johnson as an emergency rushing option, as he has a few carries under his belt, though only one this season.
Realistically, Archer was likely given a seat because he no longer plays special teams, having lost his kick return job to Markus Wheaton over the last few weeks. With the Steelers getting several injured players back healthy, it has become more and more difficult to write out the inactive list for games, though that is a good problem to have.
What does it say, however, that Archer lost his helmet on game day to a rookie undrafted running back dressing for just the second game of his career after being called up from the practice squad recently?
In fact, Josh Harris had four carries in the game for nine yards, though three of those carries came in mop up duty during a blowout victory. Still, Archer has only had four touches in a game once this season, with 14 total touches in 10 games played.
Earlier in the season, when Archer first lost his return job to LeGarrette Blount, he briefly served as the up back, but that experiment quickly ended. Harris served as the up back on kick returns against the Bengals.
What does this mean for Archer, the Steelers’ third-round pick, now that he has been shown the inactive list as the team gets healthy again, despite the fact that the team does not have a reliable back up running back to Le’Veon Bell?
While it may not mean anything in the long run, it will be interesting to see if Archer continues to see the inactive list given the fact that he does not contribute on special teams.
The Steelers have often had a third down back on the roster with receiving ability, which is a role that Archer should ostensibly fill, but his size deters him from being a reliable blocker, and Bell is too much of a weapon as a receiver for him to come off the field for more than a handful of snaps per game.
His story is still being written, but Archer must surely be disappointed with his rookie campaign as he’s struggled to even see playing time behind arguably the most complete running back in the league. Perhaps he just needs a season to grow into the system.