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LeGarrette Blount to replace Dri Archer on kickoff returns

Rookie growing pains led the Steelers' kick-return unit near the bottom of the NFL.

Jason Miller

Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount said recently he wants the ball more.

He was speaking about carries, not kick returns, but he'll get the latter now, along with whatever residual carries are left after Le'Veon Bell.

Steelers rookie Dri Archer has the worst kick-return average among any return man with nine or more opportunities. At 17.9 yards per return, he's more than three yards behind the second-worst returner. That has led the Steelers to make a change.

"Things didn't work out as well as they wanted before, so they switched it up," Blount told the Associated Press Friday. "I'm excited about it. It's going to be fun. We're hoping that we can get everything done the way that we want to get it done, and we hope that we can be effective with it so we can keep it going."

With return opportunities dwindling with each passing year, the ability to gain at least 20 net yards on a return seems to be the bare minimum in terms of expectations. Archer's vision appears to be lacking in a significant way, as he often has tried to lean on his speed to take a return meant for the middle of the field around the end. An example of that was the last return he had (it appeared he was benched in the middle of the Steelers' 30-23 win over the Houston Texans), when Archer gained only 13 yards on the return, giving the Steelers a start at the 16-yard line down 10 points.

The move shouldn't be seen as a surprise despite the accolades Archer receives for his speed. That trait led to obvious comparisons between Archer and ex-Steelers RB/KR Chris Rainey. At this point, it appears Archer is far less skilled as a return man than Rainey.

He does, however, appear to be a more effective offensive player and Archer should expect to continue receiving around five touches per game both in the receiving game, as well as a few handoffs mixed in here and there. He'll have to continue to work on seeing the whole field, because his speed isn't all that valuable if he can't find open lanes through which to run.