When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Dri Archer in the third-round of the 2014 NFL Draft, they acquired a player with the ability to not only play running back, but wide receiver as well. While Archer’s position flexibility could give the Steelers some flexibility when it comes to the two position groups when finalizing their 53 man roster out of training camp, there’s no guarantee that it will.
For starters, despite Archer’s receiving abilities, the Steelers are likely to carry five true wide receivers out of training camp this year at a minimum. The only real question at this point is whether or not that fifth, or even sixth wide receiver will be Justin Brown, Derek Moye or Darrius Heyward-Bey.
In 2012, the Steelers started the season with only four true wide receivers on their 53 man roster, but all four, unlike this year, were experienced and proven players.In short, the addition of a position flexible Archer is unlikely to save the Steelers a roster spot this year as far as the wide receiver position group goes.
That now leaves us to speculate about the running back group and whether or not Archer’s future abilities as an NFL running back are good enough to warrant the Steelers only carrying him and primary backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount on the final 53 man roster in addition to fullback Will Johnson, who has all of two carries during his first two years in the league.
In doing the above, the Steelers run the risk of putting themselves in a position where one pre-game hamstring injury or twisted ankle suffered by Bell or Blount would result in a very thin running back group from an experience standpoint. Now, I’m not suggesting taking the chicken little approach when it comes to any position group in regards to potential injuries, but it is something to think about nonetheless.
Should Archer show during the preseason that he can run between the tackles with some success, the need for an additional true running back on the final 53 man roster will be greatly reduced. He needs to show it first, however.
If an additional running back on the final 53 man roster is ultimately deemed necessary, that spot would be presumably filled by either Alvester Alexander, Miguel Maysonet or Tauren Poole. If one of these three players were to wind up making the final 53 man roster, one would think that their ability to play well on special teams would be crucial.
So where do I come down on this? Barring any preseason injuries, I think the Steelers will only carry Bell, Blount and Archer in addition to Johnson on their final 53 man roster this year. That would leave Alexander, Maysonet and Poole all battling for a spot on the practice squad, because I do not believe any of the three have superior special team skills to warrant keeping.