Looking past a fair catch on a New York Giants punt, the first offensive touch for Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Dri Archer gave fans a mouthwatering look at what to expect from the third-round draft pick out of Kent State. Archer was the 97th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and the selection confused some fans as he was officially listed as running back. Pittsburgh is well stocked at that spot, of course, with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.
But Archer is far from simply a running back, and really trying to fit him in as just being at any one position isn’t going to be accurate. On Pittsburgh’s third play from scrimmage, Archer lined up in the left spot, ran out to his left at the snap, then quickly cut back toward the middle of the field where quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit him with a short five-yard pass.
The first key point is that Archer was wide open. No one from the Giants’ defense pressed him and there was no one in Archer’s area code when he caught the ball. Smartly, Archer immediately turned up field, cut toward the right sideline, and eventually gained 46 yards on the Steelers’ most noteworthy play in the short time the starters were in the game. Only a good angle taken by Giants defensive back Prince Amukamara prevented Archer from scoring a touchdown.
Pittsburgh fans (and opponents) ought to get used to this sight. Archer doesn’t necessarily bring a new dimension to the Steelers’ offense, given the speed and ability of Antonio Brown. But with Brown showing in 2013 that he is truly a No. 1 receiver, the Steelers were wise to grab Archer in the draft to take some of the pressure off of Brown on bubble screens, jet sweeps and punt or kick returns. Pittsburgh can’t risk exposing Brown in multiple situations and potentially get him injured now that he is the guy at wide receiver.
Archer caught another pass for four yards and he also had two carries for nine yards with a long rush of five. He picked up just a couple yards on two punt returns, without having much room to work. Archer wasn’t able to show off his skills on kick returns due to touchbacks. But even though this was just the first preseason game, what we saw tonight is a good glimpse at how Archer is going to be used once the regular season begins. His speed and ability to get away from defenders are going to add one more weapon to an already potent Pittsburgh offense.