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Steelers' Dri Archer has minimal impact on offense, kicking game

10/22/2014

PITTSBURGH -- Whenever I am asked after an NFL draft how the Pittsburgh Steelers fared my stock answer is this: Ask me in three years.

I think it takes at least that long to fairly evaluate a draft -- and the players in it -- which is why it is way too premature to skewer the Steelers for using a third-round pick in May on running back Dri Archer.

But the pick looks as puzzling seven weeks into the NFL season as it did when the Steelers made a luxury selection even though they had more pressing needs, especially on a defense that is in transition.

Archer has rushed for 37 yards on seven carries and caught just four passes for 9 yards in five games. Archer, who missed two games because of a sprained ankle, is on pace for 129 rushing and receiving yards combined this season.

That is 33 less than what Chris Rainey, another speedy but small back, managed in 2012, the only season the former fifth-round pick played for the Steelers.

The Steelers never figured out how to maximize Rainey's speed and versatility before dumping him after one season because of off-the-field issues.

They are running into the same issues with Archer in part because getting touches for the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder has been as problematic as it looked when the Steelers drafted him with Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount already atop the depth chart at running back.

Bell has been an absolute stud in his second season and he is so valuable that the Steelers are having a hard enough time finding playing time for Blount much less Archer.

The biggest indictment of the Archer pick to date is he has not provided the jolt that the Steelers had hoped for on special teams.

Archer routinely gets tackled short of the 20-yard line and that is when teams aren't kicking the ball out of the end zone.

Archer may be one of the fastest players in the NFL but he is last among those with at least nine kickoff returns (17.9 yards per return). General manager Kevin Colbert said after the Steelers picked Archer that they took him so high because they viewed the Kent State product as a starter because of his kick-return ability.

So far that hasn't translated into Archer making an impact in the kicking game.

It is way too early to condemn the pick, and Archer could develop into the dynamic kickoff returner and player who can exploit mismatches that the Steelers envisioned when they drafted him.

But considering the dearth of promising young cornerbacks on the roster it is right to question whether the Steelers wouldn't have been better off addressing that position -- or any number of other ones on defense -- before taking a player like Archer.