Sixty-three yards from scrimmage.
Fifty-three offensive snaps.
One lamentable use of a third-round pick.
That’s Dri Archer’s legacy in Pittsburgh after he was released by the Steelers Thursday less than 18 months after they’d drafted him in the third round.
It’s easy to see why Archer was drafted – that world-class speed. Archer had been timed at an absurd 4.16 seconds in the 40-yard dash by one reputable hand-held device. His official combine time was 4.26 – the fastest for any player at any position since Chris Johnson’s 4.24 in 2008 (including 2015’s participants). Size (5-8, 173) be damned – that speed can do some damage.
But, of course, for whatever reason it never translated for the Steelers. The numbers above suggest – no, SCREAM – as much. It was becoming increasingly apparent that Archer’s days were numbered, as I was saying during Thursday morning’s broadcast of the Steelers Roundtable Show on TribLive Radio (podcast link available by clicking here).
Archer had appeared in 3.2 percent of the Steelers’ offensive snaps during his time with the team – including just three snaps this season. (None since getting those three in the opener at New England).
How few is that? Lawrence Timmons has as many offensive snaps as Archer.
(The Pro Bowl linebacker is a regular part of the Steelers’ “victory formation”).
And it wasn’t as if the Steelers weren’t given ample opportunity to use Archer over the past season and a half, either. Listed as a RB/WR, Archer, one would think, would have at least filled in if players at those positions went down.
It didn’t work out that way. The Steelers had one running back all but quit on them (LeGarrette Blount) and their star starting running back TWICE have season-ending injuries (Le’Veon Bell).
Not even counting experienced veteran DeAngelo Williams – who was a legitimate offseason multiyear signing – the Steelers have gone out and signed three “street” free agent running backs who were unemployed rather than utilize Acher (Ben Tate, Jordan Todman, Isaiah Pead).
In lieu of increasing Archer’s role after Blount’s release, the Steelers instead promoted Josh Harris from the practice squad.
In lieu of increasing Archer’s role after Bell was put in IR Monday, the Steelers instead signed Pead.
OK, how about Archer as a wide receiver?
Consider that the Steelers – down a receiver to suspension and another to injury at one point earlier this season – instead chose to use an undrafted rookie converted quarterback (Tyler Murphy) at receiver rather than even give Archer so much as a snap there.
OK, how about Archer as a punt returner?
He has had one return (for 2 yards) in his career.
OK, how about Archer as a kickoff returner?
He was given the primary gig this season. He’s averaged 25.3 yards on 14 opportunities – not bad. But none were longer than 38 yards. And after his worst performance (tackled at the 10 and 16 after catching kickoffs in the end zone during the first half this past Sunday against Cincinnati), the Steelers coaches showed what kind of confidence they had in him by instructing him to kneel on any kick he received in the end zone when there was 1:47 left in regulation and the Steelers down by six.
That about said it all – the can-take-any-play-to-the-house Archer was neutered by his own coach in a situation in which the team was desperate for a big play.
What went wrong? I’m not going to speculate. I’m no scout by any means, so I hate to offer observations on what I see in camp or at practice, but I will say this: He didn’t “look” as fast as he is.
His diminutive size is obvious, but I was disappointed when I watched him because, at 4.2, I had assumed his speed would be absolutely breathtaking to watch in person. It never once blew me away personally.
All this isn’t to pass any judgment on Archer the player; of course, we wish him the best of luck. Maybe some other team/coordinator will crack the code to unleashing the potential that that kind of speed titillates with.
It also isn’t meant to deride the Steelers’ coaches or, specifically, offensive coordinator Todd Haley. It’s simple: They didn’t think he was their best option; they felt they had better players to make plays.
It isn’t even meant to denigrate the drafting of Archer. Obviously, it didn’t work out. (As a bonus kick in the teeth, a running back taken six picks after Archer, Devonta Freeman, is the NFL’s rushing leader in his second season).
Oh well. The Steelers’ 2014 draft, as soon as it was completed, always was going to be a boom-or-bust kind of draft. Be it their intention or mindset going in, or merely just a coincidence, up and down their draft board were players who seemed to have high ceilings but also a risk factor of some kind attached.
So, the tiny third rounder didn’t work out. Fine. It happens.
What about the fourth-rounder who had his own question marks (Martavis Bryant)? Or the second-rounder with injury concerns (Stephon Tuitt)? Or the sixth-rounder with questions about his weight (Daniel McCullers)? All are looking pretty good right now, as is the first-round pick, Ryan Shazier – when he’s healthy, at least.
People are saying The Dri Archer Experiment didn’t work. Truth is, it never even got to the point where it would have had a chance to.