Steelers Archer Loses KR Job, Frontrunner For 2014 Bust
Oct 20, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Dri Archer (13) rushes the ball as Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) defends during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers fans, or at least a large swath of them, were ecstatic when the Steelers drafted Kent State speedster Dri Archer. His speed, a whopping 4.2 40, was the fastest in the 2014 draft class. This single skill was touted by the front office and Mike Tomlin as someone who will wreak havoc on the field wherever he lines up. Well it turns out the only havoc Archer’s been wreaking is with fan’s frustrations.
Depending on what camp you are in, the news from the South Side will either make you blow a sigh of relief or a sad panda. Dri Archer has been relieved of his kick returning duties, and my initial response (as was probably most of Steeler Nation’s) was, “THANK YOU!” Archer has been the worst kick returner in the NFL. That’s no embellishment. The Steelers special teams ranks dead last in the NFL with kick return average. An abysmal 17.9 yards per return, which is three full yards less than the second worst average. That’s a big problem, and the Steelers recognize that by pulling Archer out and putting in back up running back LeGarrette Blount to take kicks.
It’s not the most ideal situation since I’m sure Blount would rather have more handoffs in order to get the ball more. But, I doubt he’s complaining. The guys a baller and loves to lower his shoulder, which is exactly what this kick return squad needs. See, kick returns usually mean a team has just scored. It’s the most immediate way a team can respond to that score. A big return can quickly swing the momentum back in the other direction. A poor return (Archer’s specialty) and it means a long drive and climb back to the Red Zone. The Steelers need all the help they can get, and special teams plays a big role in that. Blount is not the long term answer, but until they can find one, he’ll do for now. I really hope his first return on Sunday lands him past the 20. There will probably be a sarcastic collective cheer from Heinz Field when he does.
Sep 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount (27) returns a kick-off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
While I am relieved that the Steelers have made the move rather than continue to bleed out every time an opponent kicks off, I’m equally as frustrated – gnashing of teeth frustrated. Without a doubt, Archer has become the frontrunner for the much heralded Steelers Draft Bust of The Year. Usually it takes a couple of years to determine that, but Archer is getting there about as quickly as he can run in the open field with no one trying to hit him. “The Toy” is finding a difficult time finding his role in the offense. He only sees a few snaps a game, and when he does, it’s surprisingly from the backfield and not route running as a receiver. I’ve quipped on numerous occasions that all it takes is for a defenseman to sneeze and he falls over. His failure thus far is partly attributed to Todd Haley not knowing what to do with his new “Toy,” but it mainly falls on Archer’s shoulders.
Now that he can’t even return kicks, what do the Steelers do with him? Sorry, but I can’t really accept the, “Give it time. He’s young. He’s a rookie. He’ll find his place. He’ll get better.” While it would be just swell to drink that kool aid, I just can’t. There are some serious fundamental problems with Archer. One of which is that he can’t take a hit – no matter how large or small – without getting knocked down or backwards. Unless he takes the Captain America super-soldier serum, you can’t change that Archer is a 5’8″ 174lb midget in terms of a football player. He will always struggle taking a hit – assuming he’s willing to take them, which it’s clear he’s not. Maybe he can learn to run routes better, but once he catches the ball, then what? Does anyone other than his drooling fan base think that he won’t get killed across the middle? Oh, is he too small to target once he catches the ball?
Let’s face it. The Steelers have seriously dug themselves a hole when it comes to Dri Archer. This one really hurts when reflecting on the 2014 draft – the talent and need that was still on the board, and the Steelers went for this little “Toy.” :Hanging head: Let’s face it, folks. The
Dri Archer project is becoming a bust faster than you can run a 40.