Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Jaylen Warren stole the show in their 32-25 preseason victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Warren rushed for 34 yards on just six carries (5.7 yards per carry). The dual-threat ball-carrier added an additional 30 yards and a touchdown via four receptions. Warren looked dangerous with and without the ball in his hands. The Clinton, North Carolina native appears to be on a solid path to making Pittsburgh’s final 53-man roster.
Warren’s touchdown reception arrived via a play-action passing play on 1st-and-goal from rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. Warren sold the fake and snatched the football out of the air. It was a crucial touchdown that broke a second-half deadlock.
First NFL TDs for @Nunless2 + @kennypickett10‼️
📺 #SEAvsPIT on @KDKA | NFL+: https://t.co/C6T9f39EAk pic.twitter.com/6a6WDHuHVA
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 14, 2022
An undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, Warren was rewarded for his standout performance with first-team reps at Monday’s practice. It indicates he’s steadily climbing Pittsburgh’s depth chart. Warren is on a quest to become Najee Harris‘ backup. There’s little reason he can’t achieve such a feat.
Warren wisely chose the Steelers in undrafted in free agency. By doing so, he joined a wide-open running back room behind the dominant workhorse that is Harris. The Steelers have struggled to find an adequate RB2 in recent years.
The Steelers’ first unofficial depth chart lists Benny Snell Jr. as Harris’ backup. Snell didn’t feature in Saturday’s preseason game as he continues to miss practice with a knee injury. A fourth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, Snell is missing crucial practice reps. It’s allowed Warren an opportunity to receive more touches. Snell is entering a contract year and has never even averaged 4.0 yards per carry in an NFL season. Last year, Snell averaged a career-low 2.7 yards per carry. He’s fighting for his roster spot.
Anthony McFarland Jr. is listed as the third running back behind Harris and Snell. It’s a similar story on McFarland, who was identically drafted in the fourth round just one year after Snell. McFarland was a complete non-factor for the Steelers’ offense last season, receiving a total of three carries. As a rookie ball carrier in 2020, McFarland averaged a pedestrian 3.4 yards per carry. McFarland isn’t a lock to make Pittsburgh’s final roster, although he’s at least putting up a fight. The former Maryland standout ran for a team-high 56 yards on seven attempts against the Seahawks.
Fellow UDFA Master Teague is also battling for a roster spot but has failed to impress in the same manner Warren has. Warren’s path to becoming Harris’ handcuff is becoming clearer by the day.
Warren features a compact build with a low center of gravity (5-foot-8, 215 pounds). He’s a truck stick that seeks out physicality. Warren is a shifty ball carrier that runs with toughness and excellent contact balance. His punishing style has quickly endeared itself to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
Those who watched Warren at Oklahoma State aren’t surprised by his current effectiveness. Warren was a workhorse for the Cowboys last season, running for a career-high 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 256 attempts. He possesses an all-around skill set that allows Pittsburgh to deploy him in a multitude of manners. This blitz pick-up in pass protection won’t be lost on Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner.
check out rookie Steelers RB #30 Jaylen Warren tracking and thumping up the blitzer pic.twitter.com/7wNXo0MO0W
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) August 15, 2022
Undrafted free agents displaying their worth and claiming a final roster spot leads to heartwarming underdog stories on an annual basis. A particularly intriguing one is currently unfolding in Pittsburgh. Warren is proving he belongs every time he steps on the field. Warren is trending toward not only making Pittsburgh’s roster but also toward receiving legitimate playing time behind Harris.
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