Archer’s speed on display for Steelers

August 5, 2014

LATROBE – In the competitive, testosterone-driven world of the NFL, it’s unusual for players to admit that they aren’t the biggest, strongest or fastest.

But that’s not the case for the Steelers this year, when the question is posed about who is the fastest player on the team.

Rookie running back Dri Archer is the answer to that question no matter who you ask.

“Oh man. Oh my gosh. You have no idea. He’s legitimately the fastest person I’ve ever seen,” said fellow running back Le’Veon Bell. “I’ve seen a lot of fast people run. He flies.

“I feel like I’m a fast guy. When I see him run, it’s like, ‘Wow!’”

Archer stands just 5-8 and weighs 173 pounds. But he recorded the second-fastest 40-yard dash time in NFL combine history earlier this year, when he crossed in 4.26 seconds. Some teams, including the Steelers, had him going even faster than that.

Only running back Chris Johnson and wide receivers Rondel Melendez and Marquise Goodwin, who were each officially timed at 4.24 seconds, have recorded faster times since the combine began posting them in 1999.

Some questioned why the Steelers would use a third-round pick on a change-of-pace running back when Archer was selected earlier this year. But the team has been quickly increasing his role at their training camp at Saint Vincent College.

Archer has done a little bit of everything, lining up at running back, wide receiver and as a return man. He’s even been the primary running back when the Steelers have worked on their no-huddle and two-minute packages.

“(I have) a pretty big package (of plays),” Archer said. “I think I can come and contribute in a big way. We have a great backfield. I think we all can contribute.”

Having so many duties is nothing new for Archer, who was used in a similar fashion at Kent State. Each morning, he woke up not knowing whether he would go to meetings with the running backs or the receivers.

“Sometimes I go here, sometimes I go there,” Archer said. “Usually, they’ll tell me that day, in the morning or at walkthrough. It’s all the same thing.”

What hasn’t been ordinary is how Archer has performed.

He’s been lightning fast during the one-on-one receiving drills that have him coming out of the backfield matched up against a linebacker, usually starter Lawrence Timmons.

Archer has owned the drill, often times catching the ball, giving one stutter step or making one move, then burning down the field untouched.

“I keep telling him to always make sure he finishes down the field because guys are going to try to catch him,” Bell said. “I told him not to let them catch him. Run fast every time.”

So far, the only thing that has slowed him down was some hamstring soreness that kept him out of one practice last week.

Forget about adjusting to the speed of the NFL. Everyone else has been forced to adjust to his speed.

Though he’s been bottled up at times in live running drills, he’s also broken off some long runs.

The offseason additions of Archer’s speed and the power of 250-pound free agent acquisition LeGarrette Blount give the Steelers an interesting mix of styles to pair with Bell this season.

“You can tell Le’Veon’s got a year under his belt,” said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. “You can see him coaching LeGarrette, coaching the young guys, so he’s in a different place already, which is exciting to see. LeGarrette is a football dude, which I know is going to help us. And Dri Archer makes a play or two every day that gets you excited.”

Odds and end zones

The Steelers will hold a practice at 3 p.m. today that is open to the public. … The team also will practice Thursday before leaving Friday for its first preseason game against the Giants in New York.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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