Despite only touching the football 17 times in 2014, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Dri Archer figures to have a shot at turning his uneventful rookie season into a successful one Saturday night against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Wild Card Game at Heinz Field with a good game.
With starting running back Le’Veon Bell now ruled out for Saturday night’s game with a right knee injury, Archer and fellow rookie running back Josh Harris will be asked to replace the Steelers new franchise leader in yards from scrimmage against the Ravens stingy defense. As insurance, the team also signed veteran running back Ben Tate earlier in the week.
“It’s a big opportunity for all three of us,” Archer said Friday, according to Teresa Varley of steelers.com. “We are more than happy to step in. We have one more day to prepare and be ready for the game.”
While Harris is expected to do most of the heavy lifting against the Ravens Saturday night when it comes to running between the tackles, Archer might be the one asked to replace Bell’s contributions as a pass catcher out of the backfield. While he’s caught seven passes so far this season in limited playing time, Archer has yet to break one with that 4.26 speed of his. With the weather expected to be bad Saturday night at Heinz Field, one explosive play by Archer out of the backfield could wind up being big.
Even though Archer’s only 5’8″ and weighs 173 pounds, the Steelers got to see first hand a few weeks ago how a player with his same measurables can be used effectively on offense as the Kansas City Chiefs lined rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas up all over the place in the Week 16 meeting between the two teams. Thomas, who is also only 5’8″, caught six passes in that game for 47 yards.
Prior to the game against the Steelers, the Chiefs made sure to start getting Thomas more involved in their offense during the second half of the season. He ended the year with 23 catches for 156 yards and chipped in another 113 yards on the ground on just 13 carries.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley is no stranger to using undersized players on offense as he used the height and weight challenged Dexter McCluster quite a bit during his final two seasons as the Chiefs head coach. While Haley failed to develop former Steelers undersized running back Chris Rainey into a part-time offensive weapon during his one season in Pittsburgh, there’s still time to see if Archer can become a McCluster-type player. That time should begin Saturday night.
After playing 15 snaps in the regular season opener against the Cleveland Browns, Archer’s only seen the field for 36 offensive plays since then. While he’ll be hard-pressed to exceed the amount of snaps that he played in Week 1 Saturday night against the Ravens, Archer should have a chance to impact the game nonetheless in the 10-15 plays that he figures to be on the field for.
With a just few big touches in Saturday night’s game, the Kent State product can help the Steelers shoot the Ravens out of the playoff sky and in the process Archer’s own personal future arrow can go from pointing down to pointing up in a span of just 60 minutes at Heinz Field.