PITTSBURGH -- Dri Archer is a heckuva practice player right now.
That’s not enough to justify his third-round billing, especially when his snap count from Sunday’s win over the 49ers says zero.
But a week after offensive coordinator Todd Haley said he wants to see Archer’s dynamic practice plays translate to games, an offensive starter told me Archer has been very impressive in scout-team work this week.
It's hard to know what exactly that means, since Archer isn't seeing the field and seems a candidate for the inactive list because of Le'Veon Bell's return. For his 14 career games, Archer has 17 offensive touches for 63 yards, all coming last year. This season, he has touched the ball once, a 22-yard kickoff return. The Steelers simply aren't getting him involved and haven't carved out a clear-cut plan on how to do so.
Archer is willing to be patient. He's faithful something good is coming.
“I have to bring what I bring from the practice field to the game – it will come,” Archer said.
Archer suffers from an identity crisis of sorts. The Steelers don’t really have a place for him right now. He can return kicks, play running back or line up in the slot, but he’s not doing much of those last two departments. That's what happens when you're undersized, have a tendency to avoid contact and play on a team loaded with playmakers. Kick returner is where Archer can make a tangible difference. All the deep kickoffs have turned returning to a lost art, though. Opportunities are scarce.
Archer believes the positional flexibility will help him in the long term. By cutting Tyler Murphy instead of Archer this week, the Steelers seem to hope so.
Just a thought: With Martavis Bryant out another two games, the Steelers could try Archer in the slot with Markus Wheaton out wide alongside Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. But Bell, an excellent receiver for his position, will likely take some slot reps.
“Wherever I’m needed, I’m ready to fill in,” Archer said.