The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a fairly quiet off-season and free agency so far.
With the team looking to build on their trip to the Playoff wildcard that ultimately ended in defeat, the Steelers have only made one signing of note on the offensive side of the ball, with former Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams coming in to backup Le'Veon Bell.
With Pittsburgh not making any big acquisitions comes an expectation for their young starters to really step up their game, with offensive co-ordinator Jack Haley throwing down the gauntlet to Martavis Bryant and Dri Archer.
Wide receiver Bryant got a late start to the season after being drafted in the fourth round by Pittsburgh out of Clemson. Bryant made his first appearance in Week seven against the Houston Texans, scored a 35-yard TD with his first ever reception.
The 6"4 star went on to record eight touchdowns over the rest of the season as he cemented himself as an excellent deep ball threat, taking advantage of teams that would pay more attention to Antonio Brown. Haley said that he wanted Bryant to nail down that number two receiver spot and keep dominating defenses.
“We are looking for him to come in and make a push against Markus Wheaton for that No. 2 spot and continue [to] give us big-time production, specifically in the red area where a big target like that can make a big impact,” Haley told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Archer Must Improve
Running back Dri Archer was a part of the Steelers offense that became so potent mix, but the former Kent State star didn't have anything close to the impact Bryant did. Archer ran the ball 10 times all season and caught seven passes. Whilst he won’t be pushing for a starting job in 2015, Haley has insisted they are designing Archer a more prominent role.
“The important thing is that we do have a role for him if he is going to have a helmet on Sundays and he gets his five and six touches a game,” Haley said. “
"Any one of those plays he has the chance to take it to the house with that speed. Let’s just have a little patience and let him continue to develop and we will definitely have a plan to get him touches throughout the season," Haley added.
Archer is easily one of the quickest players in the entire NFL and actually had his sights set on breaking the combine record in the 40. He didn't manage that and the Steelers didn't manage to utilise his speed at all last year. If they can do that in 2015, then Archer could become a real game changer.
If the Steelers youngsters can improve then they have a great shot at winning the AFC North next year ahead of the Bengals, Browns and Ravens. They've gotten close once and a good draft with a couple of improvements could be all it takes for the Black and Yellow to be very happy in 2015.