Pittsburgh’s Archer Experiment Ends: Steelers Cut Dri Archer, Claim Jacoby Jones Off Waivers

Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have apparently seen enough. Pittsburgh’s Dri Archer experiment is apparently over as the Steelers cut Dri Archer and claim Jacoby Jones off of waivers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers turned heads during the 2014 NFL draft when they drafted Dri Archer in the third round.

EVERYONE KNEW the Steelers were looking for cornerbacks and wide receivers early in the 2014 NFL Draft. They broke from the script in the first round by drafting Ryan Shazier. They did it again in the second round by drafting Stephon Tuitt. There were good cornerbacks and wide receivers left on the board in the third round.

Instead they drafted Dri Archer, who was the fastest man at the 2014 NFL Combine. The appeal of Archer’s speed was obvious, but that speed came with a real downside, his size. Archer was not only the fastest man at the combine, he was also the smallest at 5’8” 173 pounds.

Stone Offered Template for Archer

Undaunted, the Steelers saw Archer as a potential scat or utility back, in the mold of Dave Meggett or Eric Metcalf. They even gave him number 13, indicating their plans to use him as a hybrid wide receiver running back. In that sense Archer’s arch could have followed another speedy player who earned himself a spot on the Steelers roster for 8 seasons from 1987 to 1994 Dwight Stone.

The Steelers used Stone as a kick returner throughout his career in Pittsburgh, and tried him at running back in 1988 before shifting him to wide receiver. Stone was never a star, but he was a legitimate role player during Chuck Noll’s final seasons as head coach, even if his nick name of “Hands of Stone” was well earned, (at times at least).

Stone’s held on to his starting role during much of Bill Cowher’s first two seasons, but it waned with the emergence of Yancey Thigpen and Ernie Mills. Like Archer, the Steelers hoped to use Stone as a utility back in 1994, but that role never emerged.

Dri Archer Failed to Follow Dwight Stone’s Arch

Unlike Dwight Stone, Archer could never make it work. As a rookie he had 10 rushes and 7 catches. While his averages were OK, that was hardly representative sample. The Steelers actions spoke volumes when Le’Veon Bell was injured in the 2014 season finale vs. Cincinnati, as they immediately signed Ben Tate and ran Tate with Josh Harris.

Archer began to get work as a kick returner in 2015, and while his average was decent, he chose to down a kick in the end zone vs. the Bengals instead of attempting to run the ball out of the end zone. A number of reporters commented on this, and one has to wonder if they weren’t echoing frustrations they’d heard off the record from Steelers coaches.

  • The timing of the Steelers decision to cut Archer is also curious.

Early in the season when the Steelers needed create roster room for Le’Veon Bell, Gerry Dulac reported that Archer was on the trading block. A trade never materialized as the Steelers made other roster moves. However, the NFL’s trading deadline came and went this week. One has to wonder if the Steelers tried and failed to trade Archer.

So apparently the Steelers cut Dri Archer having been unable to get anything for him.

Jones to Provide Relief for Brown?

Another telling fact about Dri Archer was that Mike Tomlin and Danny Smith never felt comfortable trying him out as a punt returner, as they instead continued to use Antonio Brown in that capacity, thereby exposing one of their best players to a greater injury risk.

Jacoby Jones best days are likely behind him, but his work as a kick returner in 2015 is still solid. His work as a punt returner isn’t quite as impressive, but he has had fewer opportunities there. The Steelers would nonetheless we wise to try him.

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