On the Steelers: Dri Archer is many things, but certainly not a rerun

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People might be advised not to mention the name Chris Rainey in the presence of rookie Dri Archer. They would be especially advised not to call him the next Rainey, which no one has done in camp as far as Archer knows.

“I know who he is,” Archer said.

It’s not that it would anger Archer to hear the comparison, but he just does not believe it to be true. Both were productive 5-foot-8, 170-some-pound backs in college who came with the same projections in the Steelers offense — someone who can play all over the place and add a different dimension to the passing and running games.

They are the types of backs offensive coordinator Todd Haley has loved to deploy in his offenses through the years, most successfully in Kansas City with Dexter McCluster.

Rainey was a fifth-round pick from Florida, Archer a third-rounder from Kent State.

The Rainey experiment ended in failure on and off the field. He played in 16 games as a rookie. He rushed for 102 yards on 16 carries. He caught 14 passes for 60 yards. He returned three punts for 16 yards and 39 kickoffs for a 26.5-yard average.

The Steelers released him in January 2013 after he got into one too many predicaments off the field. He played in two games for Indianapolis last season before the Colts released him near the start of training camp this summer for violating team rules.

Those are ample reasons Archer prefers not to be compared to Rainey. He would rather talk about playing in his first professional football game Saturday night against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. — even if it is a preseason game.

“I can’t wait, I’m excited,” Archer said.

It should be nearly as exciting to see how Haley uses him and his 4.26 speed in that game. He cannot be pigeonholed. If Kordell Stewart were the original Slash because of his ability to play wide receiver/quarterback, Archer is the multislash.

“Being a versatile player, I can do a lot. Whatever they need me to do, I can do it — return game, running back, receiver, outside receiver, slot receiver, fullback.”

He has lined up at all of them this spring and summer and he might play them all Saturday night. One new adventure for him has been returning punts, which he did not do at Kent State.

“It’s going pretty good,” he said. “I practice it every day, so I’m getting better at it and feel more comfortable at it.

“I just like to have the ball in my hands, however it is.”

Carter fighting for his chance

General manager Kevin Colbert named four players in the final years of their contracts who might be targets for extensions this summer.

He did not include outside linebacker Chris Carter, a 2011 fifth-round draft choice entering his fourth and final year under contract. Colbert did not forget to include Carter, they just have no plans to offer him another contract.

Yet Carter could follow in the shoes of Jason Worilds, a linebacker who suddenly put it all together in his fourth and final season.

Carter excelled on special teams throughout his time with the Steelers but became more of an afterthought at outside linebacker after he made little impact filling in for injured James Harrison to start the first two games of the 2012 season.

Since then, they drafted Jarvis Jones in the first round, gave Worilds nearly $10 million to play at least this season after he blossomed in 2013 and signed free agent Arthur Moats from the Buffalo Bills this year.

Those three are ahead of Carter, who is not ready to concede that point.

“They drafted some dudes and invested some money in them,” Carter noted. “That’s just the nature of this business. Not to take anything from those guys, they’re great athletes. I love all my teammates.”

He believes his coaches will keep an open mind about such matters, that if he, say, outplays some others, he will move up, no matter their resume or how much they pay them.

“At the end of the day, winning is winning, production is production, sacks are sacks,” Carter said. “Naturally, they prefer the guys they pay to get them, but at the end of the day, if you get them, you get them.

“It’s similar to the story of James Harrison. He came up and wasn’t getting anything. They really didn’t want to give him a shot, [but] they were forced to. He went out there and shined.”

Carter hopes his play also might force their hand.

“I’m doing everything I have to. I’m putting in the time, putting in the work. I grinded this offseason, I feel like I came back in amazing shape, and I’m explosive off the ball. I definitely think they’re noticing some things.

“I’m going to continue to prove to these coaches and the team why I should be here and be able to help these guys.”

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.

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