Steelers GM Kevin Colbert Likens Dri Archer To Longtime Return Specialist Mel Gray

While everyone should know by now that the Pittsburgh Steelers plan on using third-round draft pick Dri Archer as a kick returner in 2014, there’s an outside chance he’ll also be allowed to return punts at some point during the season or beyond.

Archer, who only returned six punts for eight yards in his four years at Kent State, will have to first prove to the coaching staff that he can handle that job.

“He’ll work on that,” said Colbert during a Monday interview on The David Todd Show. “He did some of that in pre practices at Kent State. In regular practices during the season he caught punts. We worked him on his Pro Day. Coach Danny Smith went out there along with one of our scouts and had him catch punts. It’s something that he’ll have to continue to grow in, but he has the skill set to be able to do it. In the meantime we still have Antonio Brown, who’s here, and of course Markus Wheaton has worked on that and will continue to work on the punt return abilities.”

Colbert likens Archer to former longtime Detroit Lions return specialist Mel Gray, who he scouted when he was the Lions Pro Scouting Director in the 90’s. Gray, like Archer, was also an undersized running back. He spent 12 years in the league as a return specialist.

“Mel was an undersized running back from Purdue who had to learn how to catch punts and he became really good at it,” said Colbert. “You just always know that those guys, they can always change a game. They give you field position and sometimes an explosive play that’s the difference between winning and losing.”

Even though the league pushed kickoffs up to the 35-yard-line a few years ago, Colbert still believes the Steelers can use Archer as a weapon on returns because of where Pittsburgh is located geographically.

“Being a northern team, we have more kick returns then the average,” said Colbert. “Of course that picks up later in the year and if you’re fortunate enough to get into the playoffs, it’s great to have a guy that can return a kick and change a game.”

On top of what Archer brings to return game, Colbert also knows that he has an offensive asset in Archer in addition.

“His kick return ability is really explosive,” he said. “It’s really unique, so we know he can do those and we think he can do punts in time, but in the meantime, we’ll have a guy at our disposal offensively that can give you a nice changeup.”

  • srdan

    Good value in the third. It was further solidified when we picked Bryant in the fourth. I don’t think Archer was going to be there in the fourth. Anyway, the third spent on Archer was one of the last few picks in the third.

    Logan and Rainey both returned kicks their rookie year. If he can do that this year, and get 70 touches on offense this year, he is worth every bit of a third IMO.

  • afrazier9

    Percy harvin

  • steeltown

    Hmm so sounds like A.Brown will continue to return punts for the time being until Archer proves capable.. I hope that’s sooner than later

  • 20Stoney

    I have a feeling it will be later. Tomlin has proven that he doesn’t like to change things that he’s comfortable with unless he has to.

  • steeltown

    Not ideal to have our #1 WR returning punts on a regular basis. In a playoff scenario yes, but we’re thin at the position as far as experience goes with guys like Wheaton and Bryant on the chart and Moore being acquired this offseason.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Yes but AB is smart enough to do it. He fair catches most punts to minimize risk of getting his head knocked off. He only returns it when it is deep enough that there is no one bearing down on him. The coaches have certainly advised him well. I would be fine with Archer or Wheaton doing the same.

  • joed32

    He also said that Wheaton was working on punt returns. The problem is that Brown is really good at it.

  • Brendon Glad

    I think by the end of all this, Al Davis will be rolling over in his grave. Archer looks like he was shot out of a cannon when he gets the ball and takes off (similar to mel Gray). However, I’m more excited about seeing him in roles from scrimmage. The Chris Rainey experiment never got a chance to develop because it’s clear Rainey had his mind on everything but football. I think Rainey’s failure will end up being a blessing in disguise, and that Archer will end up looking a lot more like a cross between Eric metcalf and Sproles than he will to Chris Rainey. So I’m very excited to see him in action.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I think him returning kickoffs will result in far fewer teams giving us anything returnable.

  • Steve

    Archer may get his chance in pre season.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Archer is a nice weapon, but I don’t know that he was great value at 3.comp. Most boards had him going later.

    His true value will be known by the end of this season. If he makes a few splash plays that actually win us a couple games he becomes “great” value. If he gets hurt or fumbles or fizzles out like Rainey he becomes “terrible” value.

    I’m hoping for the first option.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I think they’ll put Archer in as punt returner as soon as humanly possible.

    The coaches gave Wheaton every opportunity to do that last year but he didn’t prove reliable catching the ball. That’s why they put in AB.

    The only problem was they gave AB strict instructions to “not get hurt”. So he fair caught everything (not everything but a lot) and ducked down before contact. That is extremely mediocre punt return production.

    As long as Archer doesn’t fumble, he is in.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    You’re right that they will TRY to avoid it. But as Colbert said when the weather gets cold and the ball stops carrying kickoffs will start falling short.

    Also, it makes punters choose between kicking it out of bounds, or lofting it short. Either way we gain field position with just Archer’s appearance.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Does anyone else think of Archer (the animated TV series) every time you hear this kid’s name? Or is it just me?

  • srdan

    Mocks are mocks. He was in the first round in profootball weekly.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Totally agree.

    His presence on the field in any capacity forces the other team to react.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    But can you imagine the blocks shark,shazier,and zumwalt will be laying on s.t? things of beauty just hope with his speed won’t get our players penalties for late hits and im also thinking we’re gonna have the best st unit in nfl which is gonna be my pick in fantasy league