The Pittsburgh Steelers are excited about their run game going into the 2023 season.
Najee Harris, a former first-round pick, is entering his third season and looks to be one of the more productive running backs in the league. But what may have the Steelers feeling even better is his backup, Jaylen Warren.
Warren had a spectacular preseason leading into his second NFL campaign, and he is catching the attention from observers and coaches alike.
ESPN insider Dan Graziano believes there is a possibility Warren, an undrafted free agent, could become the team’s starter over Harris sometime this season.
Yes, Najee Harris was the team’s first-round pick in 2021. Yes, he has been a productive and reliable No. 1 back in his first two years, even as the offense overall struggled. And yes, he was coming off a foot injury at the start of last season, which helps explain why his production didn’t live up to that of his rookie year. So Harris is still firmly in the Steelers’ plans and opens the season as their top back.
But Warren’s performance in practice and games has demanded a larger role for him than what Pittsburgh had planned a year ago. He has shown the ability to spell Harris whenever asked, and he has actually looked more explosive in some areas. Unless Harris looks more like the 2021 version of himself than the 2022 version, Warren’s opportunity could increase dramatically as the year goes on. Warren, a 2022 undrafted free agent, took 77 carries for 379 yards last season.
Last season, Harris had the better numbers in the box score. However, Warren offered a bigger bang for your buck. That’s a trend that could continue in 2023.
Jaylen Warren had a 62-yard house call on the first drive with the Steelers starters.— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland) August 20, 2023
He was the more efficient back in Pittsburgh last season.
Najee Harris was still the clear lead option with the starters in Week 2 of the preseason -- very close to splits we saw in 2022. pic.twitter.com/YWPba6rK03
Even in the preseason, Warren had a highlight moment with a 62-yard touchdown against the Buffalo Bills.
This TD run from Jaylen Warren is 25 yards longer than the best carry of Najee Harris’ career. The only thing holding #30 back is the Steelers’ stubbornness to justify drafting a 1st round RB. pic.twitter.com/X36u3iMqJB— Donny Football (@DonChed54) August 20, 2023
Warren has the chance to make a statement in the Steelers’ season opener on Sunday, September 10 when the San Francisco 49ers come to town. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.