While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.
Question: Will Dri Archer become an asset to the Steelers in 2015, rather than an afterthought?
The Steelers certainly seemed excited to be able to add running back slash wide receiver Dri Archer to their team via the first compensatory pick in the third round of last year’s draft, figuring he would add a new dimension to their team with his 4.2 speed.
It never really developed that way, though there are a variety of reasons. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of his rookie season is that he simply failed to find any success when he was given the opportunity to return kicks. A slow start on offense is more understandable.
The fact that Archer was situated behind Le’Veon Bell, an eventual All-Pro and a workhorse back, in addition to LeGarrette Blount, who is a bruiser who can consume snaps, already made the proposition of the rookie contributing frequently a tricky proposition.
Even from the moment he was drafted, the conversation situated immediately around how the Steelers would get him snaps. On opening day, he did actually see 15 snaps, although he only carried the ball once and had one incompletion thrown his way.
But Archer suffered an ankle injury that came and he missed two weeks’ worth of games and practice time, setting him back substantially. He only played more than four snaps in a game twice the remainder of the regular season.
With Bell out during the playoffs, Archer saw 31 snaps, and he caught three of four balls for 15 yards, excluding a touchdown reception that was negated by penalty (though he also had one carry for -1 yard).
The fact that Archer fell behind the curve immediately leads me to wonder how his rookie season might have unfolded had he not so promptly fallen out of the Steelers’ plans. Rookies who fall behind get lost in the shuffle, as Markus Wheaton learned the year before.
While it will still be difficult for him to find snaps behind Bell, however, I do think that Archer can find success in this offense if the Steelers can scheme him into open space.
With Bell out the first two weeks due to a suspension, he will have a trial period during which he can prove to the coaching staff that he can shoulder his share of the load, which may well be the best thing for him after a frustrating rookie season.