As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the upcoming 2015 season, they see a running back depth chart which seems solidified. Le'Veon Bell as one of the premier backs in the league, DeAngelo Williams as the new guy on the block who will fill in for Bell during his suspension and as needed, Josh Harris who saw carries in the Wild Card game of the AFC Playoffs last year and Dri Archer.
Archer seems to be the wild card of the group as he is not the typical NFL running back. He lacks the size and stature to withstand the punishment delivered on running backs who carry the ball over 20 times a game, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed.
It was his speed which caught the Steelers' eye before they selected him in the 3rd round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but his production in 2014 certainly wasn't what fans expected from Archer.
In a recent interview with fans for Steelers Nation Unite, offensive coordinator spoke at length about Archer, his rookie season and some advice for fans when analyzing Archer's small sample size of an NFL career.
"Dri is a unique talent because he is probably the fastest guy on the field wherever we go. At the same time he is in a little bit of a difficult spot because we have a guy in Le'Veon who is capable and you really want on the field as much as possible. In a lot of places where you have running backs coming off the field, Le'Veon tends to get stronger as the games goes on. You hate to ever take him off the field. I am a big believer of putting your best 11 guys on the field as many snaps as you can. That put Dri in a little bit of a difficult spot being a rookie coming from a little smaller school. When you get guys like that, sometimes the transition time is a little longer than we all would like, himself included. I really feel with a year under his belt even though there wasn't great production anywhere. A year, plus another offseason and training camp, a full room in an NFL weight room, I think Dri will come back more experienced and still has that outstanding characteristic of speed. The important thing is that we do have a role for him if he is going to have a helmet on Sundays and he gets his five and six touches a game. Any one of those plays he has the chance to take it to the house with that speed."
Haley is right in regards to Archer having the speed to take the play the distance whenever the ball is in his hands. The problem in 2014 seemed to be Archer never really had that chance too often, but fans got a small glimpse of his capabilities in the preseason when he had a couple big plays which raised expectations of the fan base around the globe.
However, Haley requests fans be patient with Archer as he progresses through his development. "Let's just have a little patience and let him continue to develop and we will definitely have a plan to get him touches throughout the season."
Archer will have to battle each week to get a helmet, but Haley seems determined to utilize Archer in some way, shape or form. Maybe Archer will turn into more of a receiver than running back next season, but the Steelers would benefit from him becoming a better return man while continuing to be versatile showing the ability to play multiple positions. Nonetheless, as Archer found out in 2014, patience can wear thin within the Steelers' large fan base.