Much has been said about the Steelers’ third round draft choice in 2014 being spent on a role player in Dri Archer, but for comparisons sake, there is hope to be had.
His stat line of 10 carries for 40 yards and 7 catches for 23 yards is inexcusable for a player not only of his pedigree but a player possessing his lightning-quick acceleration. Many of his rush attempts last season were up the gut, where he was somewhat effective. However, his best asset is obviously his wheels, so why not get him on the edges and into the open field?
To me, the manner in which he was used his rookie year is somewhat like using a fork to eat soup. Although it may work, the more effective way is with a spoon, and the spoons in this case are the bigger, more-sturdy backs. There aren’t many backs in the league, or players period, with Archer’s world-class speed so why not put him in advantage to best utilize his God-given gifts?
A comparable player, both for the sake of this write up and for real life purposes is Dexter McCluster. Under Steelers offensive coordinator/ex-Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, from McCluster’s time as a second rounder in 2010 until Haley’s firing in 2011, he had 132 carries for 587 yards and caught 67 passes for 537 yards, with three total touchdowns. However, it was his return ability that made him stick out, as his rookie year he returned 13 punts for 202 yards, including a 94-yarded for a score. He was even named a Pro Bowler and All-Pro returner in 2013, when he returned 58 punts for 686 yards and 2 scores, including an 89-yard jaunt.
At 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, he is almost a mirror image of the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Archer, but Archer has a one-up on McCluster and that’s in terms of his game-breaking 4.26 speed. McCluster’s 40-yard time was a 4.58 at the combine, a time that seems a bit slow for a player of his size. And that’s the difference between the two, because those tenth a of a second are the difference between a crease opening and closing or a cut being made and racing 100-plus yards to pay dirt on a return.
The bottom line is the Steelers have a very prized weapon on their hands that no one except perhaps Chris Johnson in his prime had and that’s world-class speed. A third round pick is not a random throw at a dart board or a roll of the dice pick. It’s a high enough pick to expect steady contributions and/or an eventual starting role from the player.
His rookie stats fail miserably when comparing to McCluster’s so does that mean a huge uptick in touches year 2? Ideally, according to Haley, the plan is for 5-6 touches a game.
“Any one of those plays he has the chance to take it to the house with that speed,” Haley said, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Let’s just have a little patience and let him continue to develop, and we will definitely have a plan to get him touches throughout the season.”
Ever since season’s end, Haley has hopefully been conjuring up wrinkles in the game plan for his dynamo back/receiver. Opposing defenses respect speed, and it was evident even in the preseason last year that they without a doubt respected Archer’s, as he’d commonly go in motion, suctioning in the double teams.
With Le’Veon Bell missing several games due to suspension to start the season, some “snap, crackle, pop” might be needed at times to give the offense that spark, whether it be on reverses, flea flickers, screens, etc. Who better to do it than Archer. Haley now has his “deluxe” edition of McCluster, now the question is how will he use him?