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What Were the Pittsburgh Steelers Thinking Drafting Dri Archer?

Dri Archer?


The Pittsburgh Steelers punctuated a 51-pick wait Friday night on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft to take this guy?

The Steelers used their third-round compensatory pick, No. 97 overall, on Archer. The 5’8″, 173-pounder from Kent State has been listed as both a running back and a wide receiver.

Archer was the fastest player at the NFL Scouting Combine, blazing to a 40-yard dash time of 4.26 seconds. Since 2006, that’s second only to Chris Johnson. It’s faster than newly-acquired Steelers receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who clocked a 4.3 in 2009, and former Steelers receiver Mike Wallace’s 4.33 that same year, according to

Kevin Costner played the Cleveland Browns’ general manger in “Draft Day.” Apparently Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is a handsome man, because Tom Cruise was cast to play him in “Top Gun” nearly 30 years ago.

Because Colbert felt the need. The need for speed.

Of course Steelers coach Mike Tomlin likely had a lot to do with this pick. He loves those kickoff return specialists. Remember Allen Rossum, 32 at the time, in 2007? How about Stefan Logan in 2009 taking up a roster spot without scoring a touchdown?

The Steelers worked on the front seven of their defense in the first two rounds, picking Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier on Thursday and Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt. It was a little disappointing that they didn’t pick a cornerback, but they prioritized rushing the passer and stopping the run. Understandable.

But when they picked Archer, they changed Pittsburgh’s area code from 412 to WTF.

Yes, the Steelers need depth at running back. They got their bruiser when they signed LeGarrette Blount. Now they have their scatback. Archer ran for 1,429 yards in 2012, leading the nation with nine yards per carry. He also caught 99 passes for 1,194 yards and 12 touchdowns in four years at Kent State.

This is also an upgrade on kickoff returns over Felix Jones and the accompanying piano on his back. Archer returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in college and is 10th in the NCAA since 2000 with 28.2 yards per kickoff return.

But a returner/third-down back is something you get in the late rounds. The Steelers entered Day 3 without a cornerback, a pure wide receiver, an outside linebacker and an offensive tackle. Now they have to fill those needs with players taken in the fourth round or later, which means it’s a crapshoot whether or not they’ll even make the team.

Sure, Archer is an exciting player. But he’s a luxury pick. Taking him before taking a cornerback or a taller pass catcher is like having dessert before eating your vegetables.

If the Steelers really had to have Archer, they should have traded back in the first or second round and acquired an extra pick earlier in the third round to take a player who’s going to be on the field more often.

Archer wasn’t on the field in 2013 as much as he was in 2012. He missed a couple of games with an ankle injury and his rushing yardage fell from 1,429 yards to 527. Durability will be a concern with a player his size.

Were the Steelers trying to pay tribute to their 1974 draft, the holy grail of all NFL drafts, by picking another undersized player from Kent State? The 6’4″, 220-pound Jack Lambert, chosen in the second round, made the Hall of Fame at middle linebacker.

Instead, it looks like the Steelers are following in the tradition of their recent third-round picks. Their two most recent third-rounders, Markus Wheaton and Sean Spence, have been injured. No one can be faulted for that. But cornerback Curtis Brown, taken in the third round in 2011, was released after three seasons. Emmanuel Sanders (2010) and Mike Wallace (2009) helped the Steelers get to the Super Bowl. But linebacker Bruce Davis in 2008, wide receiver Willie Reid and safety Anthony Smith in 2006 were busts. Matt Spaeth, taken in the third round in 2007, has been nice, but the third round is a little early to take a backup tight end.

And it’s way too early to take Archer.

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  1. charles maftin

    One thing you left out: the architect of that 74 draft’s son was doing the talent evaluation on Archer. Aside from that you bring up excellent questions.

  2. Alvin

    Be prepared to eat Raven, or crow if you prefer

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