The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

June 5, 2014

Steelers rookie no small factor

PITTSBURGH — Dri Archer just kind of laughs. He can’t help it. Spend most of your life as the smallest player on the football field and you get used to the incessant questions about beating the odds.

“I’ve always been the littlest guy out there,” Archer said. “I don’t even think about it.”

Fear is not an option for the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Pittsburgh Steelers rookie. He doesn’t worry about how his slender frame will hold up to the rigors of the NFL because it wouldn’t do any good. Archer has been playing football since he was in first grade, when he would wrap flags around his waist and imitate Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.

The 22-year-old never met a tackle he couldn’t walk – or better yet, sprint – away from. There’s no reason to think it will be any different as a professional.

“I just want to come in and contribute, do what I’ve always done,” Archer said Thursday.

For the Steelers, that will be a little bit of everything. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley figures to get creative with how to use Archer, whose eye-popping 40-yard dash time of 4.26 seconds at the NFL combine earlier this spring was the second fastest in combine history.

It’s that number – and not the ones next to his height and weight – that leapt out to the Steelers.

“Whatever way we can find to get this kid the ball or to have him involved in our offense we are going to do that as a staff,” running backs coach James Saxon said. “(Offensive coordinator) Todd Haley is going to do a great job with that. We are all going to work together to get this guy in the right place.”

The right place could be any place.

Though he spent most of his time at Kent State at running back – where his 7.2 career yards per carry looks like a misprint – Archer is more than just 68 inches of kinetic energy who hides behind his massive offensive linemen. He also caught 99 passes and returned four kickoffs for touchdowns during his college career.

Though the NFL is one step – more likely two – over what he saw on a weekly basis while playing in the Mid-American Conference, Archer is confident he can make the leap. This is the same player, after all, whose Twitter profile picture is a drawing of him wearing a No. 1 jersey with a cape on the back.

“You’ve just got to learn to do the right things,” he said. “I’m just trying to learn the playbook and be where I’m supposed to be at all times.”

Archer is just the latest attempt by the Steelers to find a Swiss Army knife in the backfield.

Pittsburgh grabbed sprinter/running back Chris Rainey in the fifth round of the 2012 draft.

Rainey was ineffective on the field and a problem off it, eventually getting cut in January 2013 after being charged with slapping his girlfriend.

There are no such character concerns with Archer, who has quickly ingratiated himself with his teammates no matter which meeting he happens to be in, whether it’s with the running backs or the wide receivers.

Saxon praised Archer for his toughness and it’s worth noting Archer missed only a handful of games across four seasons at Kent State despite handling the ball nearly 500 times. He averaged a touchdown once every 13 times he touched the ball in college.

While it’s unfair to expect that kind of production in the NFL, Archer understands his unique skill set gives the Steelers a speedy yin to the powerful yang of top running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. He understands there are skeptics who will wonder if he was worth a third-round pick. That’s fine.

The skeptics haven’t been right yet.

“That’s why I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Archer said. “Everyone tells me I am too small. I can’t take hits. I can’t do this and I can’t do that. I am just out here to play football. And I know what I can do.”

Notes: The Steelers signed first-round draft pick Ryan Shazier to a four-year contract on Thursday. Financial details were not disclosed. Pittsburgh took Shazier with the 15th overall pick after a standout career at Ohio State.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Cleveland Browns receiver Gordon to meet with league Aug. 1

    A person with knowledge of the meeting tells The Associated Press that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon will have a hearing with NFL officials in New York on Aug. 1.

    July 24, 2014

  • Pirates 0723 Early outburst carries Pirates past Dodgers

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Steelers 0723 After makeover, Steelers ready for resurgence

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Steelers Patriots Front.JPG Gronkowski cleared to play at Patriots training camp

    Rob Gronkowski has been cleared to play at the New England Patriots training camp.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dodgers Pirates Polanco, Walker lift Pirates over Dodgers

    Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a solo home run and a tiebreaking two-run single, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
    Polanco, hitting just .133 in his previous 11 games, smacked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth to put Pittsburgh in front for good.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • McIlroy 0720 McIlroy holds on to win British Open

    Walking off the 18th green as the British Open champion, Rory McIlroy kept gazing at all the greats on golf’s oldest trophy.
    On the claret jug, his name is etched in silver below Phil Mickelson.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0719 Pirates take second straight over Rockies, win in 11th inning

    Jordy Mercer doubled home Neil Walker with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.
    Walker led off the inning with a single against Colorado’s Chad Bettis (0-2), moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored one batter later when Mercer hit a drive deep into the gap in left-center.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • out at home Eighth-inning rally carries Pirates to victory over Rockies

    Travis Snider’s pinch-hit double in the eighth scored Neil Walker to spark the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
    Walker trotted home when Colorado right fielder Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t track down Snider’s sinking line drive off reliever Matt Belisle (2-5). All-Star Josh Harrison added a sacrifice fly one batter later.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads