As training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers rolls along, we’re now one day closer to the first preseason action, which will pit the team against the Seattle Seahawks Saturday evening at the new Acrisure Stadium, which is definitely going to take some getting used to, as I literally just caught myself typing in Heinz Field before back tracking.
One of the major storylines of camp thus far has been the running back depth behind workhorse Najee Harris, who shattered Hall of Famer Franco Harris’ single-season rookie rushing record last season as he ran for 1,200 yards. He also logged a massive workload, registering 381 touches, which was tops in the league. The front office has been on-record all offseason stating they want to minimize Harris’ workload entering year two, keeping him fresh for late in the season as well as attempting to prolong his career.
Despite not making any draft picks to help solidify the depth, the team did sign several undrafted free agents, including Duke’s Mataeo Durant and Oklahoma State’s Jaylen Warren. Warren has been making the most of his opportunities thus far in training camp, as a minor foot injury to Harris as well as recently-signed Jeremy McNichols being placed on IR has afforded him as such. Despite the team also signing Master Teague III and having worked out several others including Jordan Howard, Josh Adams and Jalen Richard, head coach Mike Tomlin continues to speak highly about Warren and the opportunities being presented to him.
“You know, one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, we say that often, and we mean it,” Tomlin said today via Steelers.com. “There’s an attrition component to this process and we don’t waste time worrying about the time missed, we’re focusing on things that as, as you mentioned, a guy like Jaylen, getting additional reps, a guy like Master Teague III that’s kind of getting on a moving train and getting an opportunity to show what he’s capable of. These are awesome days and opportunities for young people.”
With the backup spot seemingly favoring incumbent Benny Snell, due to his special teams chops, the rest of the depth chart seems to be up for grabs. Warren’s physical style seems to be a perfect fit, as the 5-foot-8, 215-pounder who NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein called a “wrecking ball on wheels” ran for 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Cowboys.
It seems to be a safe bet we won’t see much, if any, of Harris this preseason so the pecking order for touches will be perhaps one of the most interesting things to watch unfold as we get closer and closer to preseason action.