On the Steelers: Rookie Archer offers very early highlight
August 11, 2014 12:00 AM
Dri Archer picks up a first down for the Steelers Saturday night against the Giants.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The sample is so minute in these first preseason NFL games that it is nearly impossible to determine the DNA of the first teams on either side.
But let's try.
They came to greater New York not to run the no-huddle offense and not to run the zone blocking scheme.
"We came out to establish the run and the big guys going up front and blocking on the edge," Steelers receiver Antonio Brown said.
They did that to an extent in the only series Ben Roethlisberger played. Le'Veon Bell ran the first two snaps for gains of 9 and 8 yards, one of them behind the only zone blocking scheme they used with tackle Marcus Gilbert throwing a nice cut block on the play.
Roethlisberger threw a short screen on the third play and Dri Archer turned it into a fascinating 46-yard pickup to the New York 14.
Two LeGarrette Blount runs for 7 yards and a fade pass that missed its mark to Lance Moore in the end zone may have been all too reminiscent of red-zone problems the Steelers had for much of 2013. But it was a decent start, especially for Bell, Archer and the offensive line, and those all are big deals for a team that has not blocked or run very well the past few seasons.
"I felt like I got into a rhythm early," said Bell, who stuck around for a second series and caught a screen pass for 6 yards on third-and-8. "I knew I wasn't going to play long, so I wanted to really try to get rolling early. Our offensive line was opening up holes and I was running through them. I had a screen catch I wasn't really happy with it I didn't get the first down."
Archer, a 5-foot-8, 173-pound do-it-all rookie, touched the ball four times on offense -- two catches for 50 yards, two runs for 9. He returned punts and kickoffs with little effect. That 46-yard catch and run, though, was enough and something the Steelers hope he can provide on occasion this year.
"I showed that I can play in the NFL," Archer proclaimed.
"I was on the field when he made that run," Bell said. "When we broke the huddle, I said, 'All right, Dri, I'll see you in the end zone.' "
Not quite, but a good start for the little man.
"I'm happy for him," Bell said. "I was most excited to watch the play to see how comfortable he was playing and how he adjusted to playing. He had a real good game."
Sticking with the plan
So why not more outside zone blocking? Because new line coach Mike Munchak prefers to go with what works and not necessarily force-feed a particular scheme. They have not committed totally to the zone blocking, like Denver did years ago. They remain an equal-opportunity blocking line.
"The gap blocking was going well," guard David DeCastro said. "The coaches are going to tell us what's best. If we're running the gap scheme well and it's working, if it's not broke, don't fix it. It's just another tool in our tool bag. We'll match whatever their defense is, what we game-plan for."
Bell said he is "pretty comfortable" with the outside zone blocking whenever they plan to use it.
"As time goes on and our offensive line gets better and better with it, obviously I'll get more comfortable with it the more I run it. It's definitely a good complement to our downhill running style and our downhill running schemes," Bell said.
"I'm definitely excited for our blocking schemes and how much better the offensive line and running backs can get better at it. The running game is going to get better as time goes on."
What happened was ...
Defensive end Cam Heyward was not happy about his play on the 73-yard touchdown run up the middle by New York's Rashad Jennings. Others could add their own failings on that run, such as inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons and free safety Mike Mitchell, whose speed was supposed to help eliminate those kinds of big gains this season.
"We beat ourselves," Heyward said. "I am fully responsible for one of the plays breaking up the middle; I went to the flat ... I didn't get it done, just put it that way. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I messed up the first time. I have to learn from this and it won't happen again."
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.
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