Steelers News

Jaylen Warren: Debut Performance Was ‘Huge’ For Underdog, But Knows He’s Not ‘There Yet’

Were it not for the fumble, and the Pitt product Kenny Pickett making his NFL debut, it may well have been rookie running back Jaylen Warren crowned the star of the show during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first preseason game on Saturday night.

As it is, he has still attracted plenty of attention as the undrafted rookie begins to make an earnest push for a place on the 53-man roster. In addition to rushing for 34 yards on six carries and catching four passes for another 30 yards, he also performed ably in pass protection and recorded a tackle on special teams.

“It’s huge coming in as an underdog”, he told reporters after the game about his ability to showcase himself and make plays, video locker room video captured by Amanda Godsey. “I wouldn’t consider myself there yet. Anytime [I hear that] I just put that noise aside. But my family is really happy to see all that and seeing my family happy makes me happy”.

The Steelers do have a roster battle on their hands at the running back position, at least behind Najee Harris, their Pro Bowl starter. I posed the question earlier today whether or not Benny Snell Jr.’s roster spot is in jeopardy following a night in which not only Warren but third-year Anthony McFarland Jr. and fellow rookie Master Teague III showed well.

There is at least one roster spot up for grabs in the room, that being the number three spot, but if Snell’s position is not entirely safe, either, then that greatly adds to the intrigue of the final two preseason games to see who might emerge at the top.

Harris led all running backs by a wide margin in usage rate last season with respect to percentage of snaps played. Uncoincidentally, he also led the league in total touches. The Steelers want to get him more rest, and he has somewhat begrudgingly acknowledged that it might not be an altogether bad idea.

But Snell did not shine in that complementary role, nor did anybody else, albeit on extremely limited opportunities. If the Steelers feel that they have better candidates in camp this time around, then it would be hardly surprising to see a roster shake-up.

Warren first caught the attention of the wider Pittsburgh media during the first padded practice with the popular backs-on-backers drill, during which running backs (and tight ends) are required to simulate pass protection reps that are slanted against them, working against linebackers.

The rookie out of Oklahoma State showed he had both the grit and the firepower to handle that drill, and more importantly, he translated it into a game. Now he has to continue building on it, because, as he acknowledged, he’s not there yet, even if he’s making some noise—and making his family happy.

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