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Strategy Will Be Key To Getting The Best Out Of Dri Archer

The thing about Dri Archer is that, in order for him to be most effective, and to contribute the most to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the coaching staff must make a concerted effort to employ him in ways and at times that best serve his talents.

Fortunately, the coaching staff seems to understand this, as they’ve been saying all the right things since selecting him in the third round of the draft.

Perhaps this understanding has come from the trial and error of past efforts, most notably with running back Chris Rainey in 2012. While he did well on kick returns, averaging 26.5 yards per return on 39 attempts, he struggled to make meaningful contributions to the offense.

This was largely because of the offense’s inability to put him in appropriate situations and with the appropriate personnel.

Of course, he also fumbled four times (and twice again in 2013 with the Indianapolis Colts in an even more limited role), so it certainly can’t be put squarely on the team’s shoulders. Rainey had a great deal to do with his own struggles.

The Steelers didn’t get much opportunity to work with LaRod Stephens-Howling last season due to the fact that he tore his ACL in the game opener, but the general sense was that they wouldn’t be treating him much differently than any other back.

Granted, Rainey, Stephens-Howling, and Archer are certainly not the same player, and can’t simply be compared on an even basis, even if they appear to be asked to fulfill a similar role within the offense. But the variable that the team does have control over is how they choose to employ their latest scat back.

Chances are the Steelers wouldn’t have drafted him in the third round if they didn’t envision finding creative and effective ways of getting the ball in his hands. Certainly, kick returns are a given—perhaps punt returns as well.

When it comes to the offensive side of the ball, however, expect both James Saxon and Richard Mann to be in his ear, because he’ll be asked to contribute both from out of the backfield as a runner and out wide and in the slot as a receiver.

While he potentially has somewhat inconsistent hands and occasionally resorts to body catching, Archer is actually a fairly solid route runner, aided greatly by his fluidity of motion. He caught just under 100 passes in his college career for a bit under 1200 yards, scoring 12 touchdowns through the air.

While the Steelers describe him as “short” rather than “small”, given his ability to knock out 20 reps on the bench press at the combine, the fact of the matter is that it’s still not that difficult to bring him down, even if he’s willing to fight through contact and for extra yardage, if he can manage it.

Keeping him healthy and contributing in the offense will surely be an evolving process requiring adjustment as they gain a feel for what he can do, and as defenses adjust to his speed on the field. Variety may be the key to keeping him effective. Hopefully the coaching staff and offensive personnel will be able to get the most out of what he has to offer.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • srdan

    i love this pick. I thought that his speed would get him drafted much-much earlier.

  • John C

    I love the pick and if they really do use him correctly, look out!! Sounds like the biggest issue with him is that he fumbles a lot and as we know that is the quickest way to get in Tomlin’s dog house. Hopefully they can correct that problem or we won’t see much of Archer on the field.

  • steeltown


  • steeltown

    Obviously we all hope and want him returning kicks, but I also keep thinking about the one day 4-5 wide set with A.Brown, Wheaton, Moore, Bryant and Archer

  • scott2443

    biggest thing and where dri has a bigger up side is his time as a wr not to mention his speed …now teams just cant see him as a scat back they got to treat him as a wr as well which means it should leave some one man on man and they have to have some one near brown so that should really leave some one open …he could line up as back then as a wr when other team do not have enough backs to cover him….so he can be a great weapon

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I see some bubble screens and reverses in out future but i think if i was coach i will see how well he can pass because the play action would be extremely effective due to his speed the whole def will be trying to run as fast as they can towards him then hit wheaton or dhb which pretty much can walk it in at that point notice i didn’t include brown, bryant, or moore because they will be on the sideline to selling the play getting a breather

  • Paddy

    He will return kicks hopefully well but he is a RB so expect him to play there a lot.
    Don’t see him as a receiver, too short

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Yeah hes short but He scored 12 tds as a wr

  • Jacque Strappe

    I suppose I just have bad Rainey memories, so I’m way more pessimistic about his chances to be effective in this offense minus kick returns. Sure hope I’m wrong.

  • shawn

    Actually i looked it at it more closely … his fumbling is not really that bad at all ( could use improvement, but far from terrible )

    In 2012 when he played a full year injuries and had 23 TDs and had around 220 touches … he only had 2 fumbles !!! ( i would say that is about normal …

    2013 while being injured and far less touches he had 4 and lost 3 ….

    I think they will work with him on that … !

  • shawn

    like this more … AB, Wheaton, Bryant, Archer, Bell !!

  • Paddy

    in the MAC

  • dkoy85

    Yep! Pretty scary thought if you’re the opposing team, but pretty delightful for Steelers Nation.

    If DHB makes the team he will still create mismatches with his height and speed in 2014 in a 4/5 wide set that other teams will have to account for. Good insurance if it takes a little for Bryant/Archer to come on.

  • shawn

    he passed for a TD on one occasion … i bet he can throw it good enough for a few trick plays !

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    With his talent i would just ask him what plays he felt comfortable with in college and implement them into the playbook in some shape,form,or fashion

  • shawn

    lol thats good one !

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I really like this pick! My vision is a basic offense with him as the second running back with Bell. I would put him in as the 2nd RB and let the other team match up personnel but then go with a no huddle where Dri gets split wide with AB and moved around to take advantage of whatever matchups result. Not only is he a tough matchup but he’s someone you have to focus on and probably devote more than a single defender to stopping. Even just a Mike Wallace ability to demand a CB with safety help over the top would be dramatic when heath and AB are also out on patterns.

    Some of the concerns with Dri are legit but his height & weight don’t indicate fragility.

  • nato762

    Kahlil Mack – MAC
    Ben Roethlisberger- MAC
    Antonio Brown- MAC
    Lance Moore- MAC
    James Harrison-MAC

    shall I go on about legit talent in the MAC ?

  • shawn

    They sure do have a lot of options with him … i really hope they use him right … not that i was high on rainey, but they definitely didnt get the best of his abilities

  • westcoasteeler

    Haley will dust off some DMcCluster plays…

  • Mark McHugh

    Didn’t Haley do a good job utilizing Dexter McCluster?

  • cencalsteeler

    Ben should have a lot of fun with him. Imagine if they decide to go no huddle like Ben wants to. Ben will be able to see the matchup with Archer and should be able to expose it quite easily.

  • wdhammer

    Line him up wide and run baby run …

  • wdhammer

    Jack Lambert kent St

  • cencalsteeler

    Another thought with this kid. Teams will be overcompensating with knowing how fast he is. With Bens ability to pump fake (towards Archer), guys will bite, which should create space for Brown, Miller and co. A win-win.

  • shawn

    AB and BIG BEN are from the MAC … whats ur point !

  • shawn

    ya dont forget Jack Lambert lol

  • nato762

    that was my response to paddy insinuating that Archer’s accomplishments in college shouldn’t be taken serioulsy since he achieved them in the MAC… Of course I know Jack Lambert I was going current.and I forgot Shuan Suisham just a quick of the top of my head list

  • NW86

    I know many will be looking for Archer to be a big part of the offense and will be quick to call this pick a reach or wasted pick if he isn’t. But I think his biggest impact on offense will be from catching opposing Defenses off guard, so “less is more” to some extent. I say, let him play special teams and don’t put a lot of film out there on him on offense early in the season. This may help him to make a couple really BIG plays late in the season if we need a playoff push…

  • T R

    i rooting more toward… A.Brown DHB, Weaton, Moore, Bryant…Archer coming on different sets… call me stupid but i think DBH is going to over take 2 receiver… He will have a upside…Weaton still a rookie next year to me.

  • Matt Manzo

    Has anyone seen him take a hit? As strong as he is, he shouldn’t be as fragile as other small guys. Rainey seemed like he was gonna break on every tackle!

  • srdan

    I also saw a highlight of him throwing a TD. How could the defense not get sucked up when he is running a reverse?

  • srdan

    What are your memories of Stephon Logan?

  • Paddy

    Me too and Logan

  • Paddy

    I went to a MAC school and I will tell you that the competition there is weak. Yes there are the Big Bens but the week to week play the last few years has gone down hill

  • Jacque Strappe

    Well, I’ve always thought about scatbacks like this….you never see a porsche in a demolition derby. While they might avoid contact for awhile, there’s eventually gonna have to be a collision. My highway analogy not withstanding; “yield to tonnage”.

  • srdan

    his college coach said: “he is short, but he is not small”

  • srdan

    Hopefully this guessing game of where Archer will line up continues to the opposing defensive coordinators film room lol

  • srdan

    I have never seen a Mack truck in a demolition derby either. lol

  • Jacque Strappe


  • Yiz

    His measurable aren’t that much different than Tavon Austin (WR), except he’s faster. Haley is going to use him like he did Dexter McCluster.

  • Justin B

    I just hope the coaching staff can figure out how to use him.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I was just about to comment on this to somebody else. Yes, I do think he’s more durable than his ability to get past first contact suggests. He’s not built like Darren Sproles or anything, but he’s certainly got more toughness than Rainey ever had.

  • Matt Manzo

    His vision looks above average too, so I’m hoping he can avoid hits for awhile!

  • MC

    This guy is stronger and built better than Rainey, he will certainly be able to take the hits better. Looking forward to seeing this guy play.

  • MC

    He will have a far better career than Rainey, i’d put money on that.

  • MC

    Man i’m just picturing the screen , end around reverses, slants and streak plays with this kid!!

  • walter mason

    Yea I cant help thinking of Rainey and Logan who couldnt break a tackle to save his life.

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