What if I told you that Terry Bradshaw was considered by some to be too dumb to play under center and didn't officially take the reigns of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense until midway through his fifth season?
Would you call me a liar if I told you that the Steelers didn't think enough of Hines Ward's promise, that they selected receivers in the first round in both 1999 and 2000?
How about the fact that, as a rookie in 2003, Troy Polamalu looked like a kid that missed his bus, misplaced his lunch money and lost his dog all at once. In 2003, the fear was that Troy was a bust. Most likely in five years, a bust of his head will be displayed at the Hall of Fame in Canton.
All of these things occurred at one-point-in-time at the confluence of the three rivers. But all of these men listed above rose up and reached the pinnacle of their sport. If the Steeler's brass didn't give these young players time to develop, different names would headline the list of Steeler immortals.
In the 1991 comedy film "What About Bob?", Bob Wiley is inspired by his psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Marvin, to take baby steps. I've identified five Steelers that took baby steps in 2014 and who I believe are now poised to take lengthy, cheetah-like strides this coming season.
The first Steeler on our list of rags-to-riches is Dri Archer. Dri may rhyme with tree, but he is quite the opposite. The barely 5-foot 8-inch and 173-pound Archer was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2014 draft. In the spirit of transparency, Archer looked somewhat lost on the field his inaugural season in the pros and had a less than stellar year. Some believed, and still do, that his size makes him too fragile and a wasted pick. I beg to differ.
Dri Archer has qualities reminiscent of a game breaking superstar. Please let me share with five reasons that in 2015, the second-year utility man will go from rags to riches.
1) The dude is Roadrunner fast
You can't learn blazing speed, you are blessed with it. Only one man in history sported a faster time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine than Archer's 4.26, and that is Chris Johnson at 4.24. One official clocked Archer at 4.16. That's red body suit with a lightning bolt on the chest caliber speed.
In high school, Archer finished second in the 100 meters to Dentarous Locke, a World Class sprinter. His track prowess gained him scholarships to run for Clemson and Arkansas, but he chose to play football at the only school that offered him a football scholarship. That was Kent State.
Forget the size for a second. With Archer's burst, acceleration and top-end speed to take the corner, he has the gifts to weave out of traffic, get in the clear and make the big play. His hands allow him to snag whatever comes his way. Simply put, the fast feet of Dri Archer make him a home run threat every single time he touches the ball.
2) He is not a project
The belief was that Archer may be a project that needs to hone his skills before breaking out. I disagree. He's previously had football success at every level. At Venice High School in Florida, the all-purpose back was all-area as a senior and led his school to two district titles.
The diminutive Archer played immediately at the next level. As a freshman at Kent, he played in 11 games and amassed over 500 yards, both rushing and receiving.
After a so-so sophomore year, Dri broke out and totaled 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground and had 561 yards receiving with four more catches for scores. Adding in three more special teams returns for glory, Archer's 23 TDs in 2012 led the MAC conference and established a Golden Flash record for scores.
Archer's senior campaign was marred by an ankle injury suffered in the first series of the 2013 opener. However, he still managed just under 1,000 all-purpose yards and was All-MAC as a receiver and kick-returner.
Despite not playing in a power conference, 40 touchdowns in a collegiate career proves that Archer has a nose for the end zone.
3) Todd Haley needs to go back to his Kansas City well for this kid
Dexter McCluster's success in the NFL proves that size doesn't always matter. Remember McCluster as a Chief? Todd Haley was the head man and offensive guru responsible for the schemes.
Archer is often compared to McCluster due to their nearly identical position(s), height and weight. However, Archer runs a much faster 40, 4.26 compared to McCluster's 4.53.
In five seasons as a Chief and Titan, McCluster gained 2,490 yards rushing and receiving. He has also found the end zone 10 times as a professional. If a player the stature of McCluster can find success in the NFL, a faster player like Archer should also.
The Steelers have a plethora of weapons on offense and can kill you a number of ways at anytime, from anywhere on the gridiron. Finding a way to successfully implement Archer into the game plan could be downright epic.
However, I don't feel like the Steelers have figured out how to use him properly yet. A top priority of this offseason needs to be Haley gameplanning how to maximize the strengths of #13. With Archer's lackluster blocking ability, there are no surprises of what's going to occur when he's in the backfield. He's going to get the ball and the opposition knows it. The defense will be on their toes when he appears, so employing him as a decoy would help. Haley has shown signs of offensive genius in the past. Packages using quick slants, gadget running plays and lining the little guy up wide could be the start of something big.
Getting him in a spot where he can turn on the jets is the goal. Whatever it takes, exploit this man's explosiveness.
4) Restoring his confidence is paramount
In his first season in the steel city, Dri rushed for 40 yards on only ten carries, caught seven of ten passes thrown his way for 23 yards and returned nine kick offs for 161 yards. More often then. It, Archer would appear for one play with lackluster results and then get yanked. He was stripped of return duties after seven games without getting an opportunity to regain the job. The coaching staff needs to have more patience with Archer. This would remove the fear of one-and-done and the relaxation would allow Archer to focus on getting in the clear, instead of being relegated to the bench.
In the playoff loss to the Ravens, Archer was forced into more of a role and played more relaxed. Although it was called back for an unrelated foul, Archer found the end zone on a nifty run-after-catch. Removing the psychology may have been a factor.
Although the best players need to be on the field, allowing Archer to play through his growing pains without fear of the quick hook will ultimately make him one.
5) Golden Flash alums become Super Men in the 'burgh
It's all in the name. Kent State, more like Clark Kent State when their athletes join the Men of Steel.
James Harrison...Stronger than a locomotive.
Dri Archer...Well, he is faster than a speeding bullet. But he needs to take a couple more baby steps.