Steelers look to reverse a returning trend

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers can be viewed as a team that isn't going to beat you with the big play, but that all might change on special teams in 2014.

Without opening up a new tab on your computer and going to Google to find the answer, I ask all Steelers fans reading this to try and remember the last time the Steelers had a kickoff returned for a touchdown. I will give you that answer later, but just a hint, it has been a while.

The NFL is slowly trying to phase the kickoff return out of the game, but even with the kickoff being moved to the 35 yard line, returners are still bringing the ball out of the end zone in an attempt to make a big play. Only problem is, the Steelers aren't able to make them.

Enter Steelers' 3rd round NFL Draft pick, Dri Archer. While at Kent State, Archer was their primary kickoff return man, but rarely did he field a kick. With a 4.26 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine, teams would elect to kick it away rather than let the speedster do damage. In 2013, opponents only kicked to Archer two times, and he returned one of them the distance for a touchdown. Not a bad percentage.

The Steelers hope they have caught lightning in a bottle with Archer being able to be the primary kickoff return man and giving him every chance to improve the Steelers' field position other than the customary touchback that has become all too common in today's NFL.

To answer the trivia question at the beginning, it has been since 2010 when Antonio Brown returned a kickoff for a touchdown that someone has taken a kickoff back to the house, and even though Brown has returned two punts back for a touchdown in that same stretch since 2010, the overall (both punt and kickoff) return game hasn't been a positive for the Steelers.

The organization recognized that and adding Archer only helps bolster that position of need for a team desperate of special team playmakers. Although Archer only fielded six punts in his college career, the Steelers are looking to him to be able to take the punt return duties away from their best receiver.

"I feel pretty good about it," Archer told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's something I've been doing every day since I've been here, so I feel very comfortable with it."

That comfort level will be a large part of the Steelers' success in the kick / punt return games, and with Archer's speed, all he needs is the ball in his hands and a glimmer of daylight to completely change the game.

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