Considering Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have the answers to questions about what their offensive identity is, it’s fair to assume that they don’t really have one established right now. Whatever it ends up being, assuming that one eventually comes to fruition, an emphasis on being successful running the ball is going to have to be a part of it.
And part of establishing that successful running game has been the discovering and continuing development of Jaylen Warren, the rookie college free agent, as the number two, complementary back to Najee Harris.
“I think you saw some of that on Thursday night”, head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters yesterday during his pre-game press conference, via the team’s website, about Warren beginning to take on that complementary role. “It’s continuing to shape itself and improve, and I like the general trajectory of it”.
Warren’s usage in Thursday’s game comes with a bit of an asterisk because his first-half fumble almost undoubtedly shaped how they used him in the second half. He had an entire drive, I believe, to himself in the first half prior to the fumble, but he only got a few snaps, and just one touch that was called back, in the second.
But that fumble was, hopefully, only a minor blemish that is now in the rearview mirror, as the rookie continues to establish himself as a contributor who can come into the game and give Harris a break from time to time without there being a halt in what the offense can run. And Tomlin has seen positive developments in the running game, with Warren being a part of that.
“Whether it’s components of it, whether it’s individuals like Jaylen Warren carving out a role for himself, or whether it’s about groups within the group like the offensive line that’s been continually better with each performance, I just think all areas are pointing to improvement”, he said.
As a team, the Steelers did average 4.7 yards per carry on Thursday against the Browns, picking up 104 yards on 22 attempts. Harris gained 56 yards on 15 attempts, while Warren had 30 on just four carries. Chase Claypool chipped in 11 yards on a jet sweep, while quarterback Mitch Trubisky gained seven on two scrambles.
All of those things, perhaps, or at least the jet sweep, or part of what Tomlin is surely referring to when taking such a holistic approach, but other than the new offensive linemen, certainly Warren has been the biggest development this offseason from a personnel standpoint.
It’s telling, after all, that Benny Snell Jr. hasn’t played a single offensive snap this year even though he’s been the number two back for a couple of years now. He’s now very firmly behind Warren, and people are noticing how he’s earned it—but also that he must continue to do so.