Steelers UDFRA Running Back Jaylen Warren Making a Case for the 53 Man Roster?

By Jeremy Hritz

It’s no secret that the offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers will run through Najee Harris this year, as the team looks to return to its ground and pound emphasis of yesteryear. With an unsettled and murky quarterback situation, committing to the run is the team’s best option for success, at least until Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, or Kenny Pickett are able to establish confidence and consistency as QB#1.

Following a 1200-yard season rushing behind an awful offensive line, there is no reason to believe that Harris will not improve and bolster his production, especially considering the moves the team made at OL. Backing up Harris will be 4th year runner, Bennie Snell, who is power but a plodder, and will be more of a physical battering ram than a threat to break off an explosive run. Beyond Snell, it will be third-year Anthony McFarland providing the splash, as this training camp, it appears that everything has come together for him, utilizing his speed to decisively hit the hole and break out for a big gain, while also showing sticky hands to catch the ball in combat situations against defenders.

And there is another name this camp at the running back position who has caught the attention of the coaching staff and engendered conversation about whether or not keeping a 4th runner is necessary. If Jaylen Warren continues to play as he has been, the conversation between the coaching staff will work out in his favor.

Warren’s Background

Warren played his high school football in Utah, and during his senior year, he rushed for a state-record, 3099 yards and 38 touchdowns. His junior year? 1984 yards and 18 touchdowns. Prolific and impressive to say the least, even if it was just high school football. Following high school, Warren jumped around from Snow Hill Junior College, to Utah State, before finally landing and finishing his college career at Oklahoma State. He finished his lone season at OSU with 1216 yards and 11 touchdowns, and earned the respect of his teammates and coaches enough to be named team captain, something that should not be overlooked considering his brief time with the team. Warren is known for his burst, and his 11 carries for 20+ yards during his final collegiate season exemplify that.

UDRFA Runner Turning Heads at Camp

Warren has been noticed at St. Vincent’s, catching the attention of head coach, Mike Tomlin: “He has an appetite for competition, that’s a good thing. He’s learning and learning fast. I think the most significant thing that has captured my attention is that he seems really comfortable in these waters from a competition standpoint.” While these comments in no way are a golden ticket to the 53-man roster, they are evidence that Warren’s performance is valued, and should it continue, the Steelers will have a difficult decision to make at running back.

Warren has been described by many media outlets as a “bowling ball” of a runner, physical, but also shifty, able to see a hole, cut, and decisively burst. It is this style that has contributed to his explosive run rate in college. In camp, he has also shown a desire for contact and a willingness in pass protection, characteristics that sometime go unnoticed for runners. This style of running is a valuable contrast to the existing runners on the Steelers roster, and if what Warren is showing is reality, he could be a tremendous asset to this team.

Does Warren Make the 53?

If Warren can continue to impress the coaching staff, demonstrate ball security, and a desire for contact, he has as good of a shot than any UDRFA on the roster, if not the best. Warren’s greatest opportunities will come in the preseason contests, starting this Saturday against the Seahawks, in which he will get plenty of carries. Displaying his burst, breaking off a few big runs, and excelling in pass pro will go a long way in getting into the conversation for sticking on the 53. As you watch the game this Saturday, pay closely attention to this undrafted rookie who may become an element of the running game this 2022 season.

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