Cake or pie? Chocolate or vanilla? These are age-old questions some would tell you can never be answered. I can answer easily. “Both, thank you.”
What is presented as a pair of mutually exclusive alternatives isn’t always necessarily that. Chocolate and vanilla is the best example because they actually combine incredibly well. The epic greatness of the chocolate chip cookie is built on the combination of chocolate chips added to a batter heavily flavored with vanilla: Chocolate and vanilla, both are great, and together they’re amazing.
This does actually have to do with football, in case you were wondering. The emergence of Jaylen Warren has led many to question if he may be better than Najee Harris. Warren’s per carry averages are certainly higher, and on film, it definitely looks like he’s better at certain things anyway. However, there are also things Harris is better at, and the situational context of Harris’ runs is different than Warren’s. That’s not to say that Warren isn’t better than Harris (or that he is). It’s to point out that it’s a tough question to definitively answer, and is probably actually missing the main issue in this situation.
When you have an established RB1 and another running back emerges as a potentially even better player, is the right question actually, “Who’s better?” or is it “How did we get this lucky?” However you answer the debatable question of, “Who’s better?” the inescapable fact is they’re both pretty darn good, and that is a real value to be relished and appreciated.
Go back to the days of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Is your first thought, “Franco was better,” or is it “The Steelers were sure lucky to have both of them!” A top-notch running back tandem has been a driving force for some pretty good offenses. The tandem of Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris played a huge role in the undefeated season of the ‘72 Dolphins. More recently, the tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice-Jones Drew beat the Steelers in the playoffs back in 2007 with David Garrard at quarterback (not to bring up bad memories). Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams both topped 1,000 rush yards in 2009 to maintain respectability for a team that would’ve otherwise been much worse.
So, Harris or Warren?
I say, “Both, thank you!”
Having both talents on the roster allows each to play to his strengths, to keep the other fresh, and to provide insurance against an injury at the position. Like chocolate chip cookies, we may even see them combine to increase their potency in a pony backfield this year. For sure, Harris and Warren are no Harris and Bleier, but they can combine to establish a really solid foundation for the Steelers offense and have a chance to become the most potent tandem in the league. That’s a nice thing to have regardless of which one is theoretically better!