Mike Tomlin: Steelers still have high hopes for Dri Archer

Dri Archer managed just 63 rushing and receiving yards combined last season. He also lost his job as the Pittsburgh Steelers' primary kickoff returner after averaging just 17.9 yards per return -- more than 13 yards less than Cincinnati's Adam Jones, who led the NFL in kickoff return average.

Archer, the fastest player on the Steelers, failed to add a dynamic to the offense or a special-teams unit that finished 27th in the NFL last season in kickoff returns.

But if Mike Tomlin was discouraged by what he saw after the Steelers used a third-round pick last year on Archer, he did a heck of a job of hiding it at the NFL owners meetings.

"I am excited for what 2015 could be for him," the eighth-year coach said earlier this week in Phoenix. "I have a reasonable expectation that he's going to grow in all areas and be a productive player for us. Guys like him usually do that. He is a good guy. He is a smart guy. He is hard working. He has all the variables that usually produce a positive outcome. We are going to give him an opportunity to do it."

What stands out regarding Tomlin's optimism when it comes to Archer: He did not reference the 5-8, 173-pounder's world-class speed or any other physical attributes. Instead, Tomlin talked about what he saw from Archer last season on a daily basis and mostly behind closed doors.

Not that the right approach or a strong work ethic translates into success at the highest level of football. Nor will an increased comfort level in his second NFL season answer questions about whether Archer is big enough -- and whether the Kent State product can carve out a role in an offense that is loaded at the skill positions.

The most logical starting point for Archer to make an impact is on special teams, and Tomlin said he will be given a chance to reclaim his job as the Steelers' No. 1 kickoff returner. Archer will also be given a long look as a punt returner, Tomlin said.

"He didn't have as much success as he would have liked [last season] and we would have liked for him to have," Tomlin said. "So we are obviously going to give him an opportunity to have a horse in that race again. [Returning kicks] was one of the things that attracted us to him in the draft. It's on his resume. And I am sure he is excited about having an opportunity to be a field flipper for us in that area."