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.”