End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Dri Archer
Position: Running Back/Wide Receiver
Experience: 1 Year
There’s no doubt that the Steelers were excited about the prospect of drafting Dri Archer this past draft, with promises of sub-4.2 speed, despite his diminutive figure. At the least, he was expected to contribute immediately as a dynamic kickoff returner who some believed had the potential to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie in that capacity.
But he quickly lost that job a few games into the season, after failing to coax the Steelers to give Antonio Brown a break from the punt return responsibilities. I honestly can’t recall if he ever managed to return one past the 20-yard line.
This does not mean, of course, that he’s not capable of being a good returner. In truth, the Steelers’ kick return unit seemed to perform below even their own standards a year ago. I believe the unit as a whole must be better next season.
But Archer himself will need to get better substantially when it comes to him participating on the offensive side of the ball, in particular when it comes to running the ball. For a player his size, he really cannot afford to misread his blocks, which he did a few times too often, getting swallowed up for a loss or little to no gain.
He did break off a couple of nice plays for chunk yardage early in the preseason, which was an encouraging sign of what we’d all hoped would be things to come, but they never came.
Of course, Archer suffered an ankle injury in the first game of the season and missed the next two weeks, falling behind substantially in practice time and thus losing the opportunity for in-game reps.
He played 15 snaps on opening day, and then averaged about three the rest of the year. That was until the playoffs, during which the Steelers had to play without Le’Veon Bell. Archer, in fact, got the most snaps out of all the running backs on the team that game, though that was likely due to the fact that the team was trailing and he offered the most potential as a receiver.
In that game, Archer caught three passes for 15 yards, forcing a missed tackle, but he also had a touchdown reception taken away due to penalty. My overall perception of that game, however, was that the Steelers still had yet to figure out how best to use Archer in the offense, and going forward, the path to doing so must be a collaborative effort.