Steelers speedster Archer aims to find home in 2nd season
Dri Archer is fast, clocking 4.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash fast — two-hundredths of a second short of the fastest time recorded at an NFL Scouting Combine.
That world-class speed ultimately was the reason the Steelers used their third-round pick on the diminutive all-purpose back a season ago.
Coincidentally, it also was one of the factors that contributed to Archer's disappointing rookie season, at least when it came to what he did best at Kent State: return kickoffs.
Archer, it turned out, was too fast. Now he is taking time before and after organized team activities with special teams coach Danny Smith to slow down.
“It was more about me running instead of reading (last year),” Archer said. “I was supposed to set stuff up, but I was just out there running. There is more to it that just running fast.”
Archer, who averaged nearly 37 yards per return during his junior season, was removed from kickoff returns midway through the season.
His inability to adjust was a microcosm of his rookie season. Archer managed only 10 rushes and seven receptions in 12 games. He missed two games with an ankle injury and two late in the season because of a coach's decision.
Archer played double-digit snaps only twice all season: the first game against the Cleveland Browns and the playoff loss against the Baltimore Ravens.
Still, the Steelers aren't about to write off Archer.
“I have always thought he is a guy who can help us out,” Antonio Brown said. “He is an asset. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and run it between the tackles. He can find a niche where he can help us out.”
What the niche might be is still the question.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said in March that he planned to carve out a role each week to ensure Archer would be active on game days.
That role likely will follow the same path as last season, when the Steelers used Archer in a variety of ways, whether having him run the ball or catch it as a slot receiver.
However, last year, the role never produced results.
“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,” Haley said in March.
Running back Le'Veon Bell agreed with Haley about being patient.
“Dri is still coming into his own just like I was trying to figure things out after my rookie year coming into my second year,” Bell said. “I am expecting a big year from him. I don't think it is a tough thing to find a place for him.”
Haley has done it before.
When he was head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, Haley picked Dexter McCluster in the second round and used him in various ways as a runner and receiver with about six touches per game.
Archer is up for whatever role the coaching staff finds for him.
“If it is special teams, running back, wide receivers, however I can do to help the team,” Archer said. “I am more comfortable this year. Having been in the system for a year, you understand the terminology and what they ask for you.”