If there’s been a bright spot in an otherwise difficult season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s undrafted rookie running back Jaylen Warren. A camp darling whose carried that buzz over, Warren played a season-high 38 snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. As Mike Tomlin told it during his weekly Tuesday press conference, his snap count should remain high going forward.
“We’ve been playing Jaylen increasingly anyway, and I think that’s gonna continue,” he said via the team’s YouTube channel. “I think he’s proven that he’s a capable varsity player and we need plays from all parties involved.”
Though partially skewed due to the blowout loss, Warren out-snapped Harris 38-37. But as we noted yesterday, Warren had an increased defined role. No longer just spelling Harris, Warren served as the Steelers’ third down back in almost all situations throughout the first half of the game.
Warren finished the game with four receptions for 39 yards while Harris recorded just three grabs for 16 yards. A year after setting the Steelers’ rookie record for receptions in a season, 74 a year ago, Harris is on pace for just 44 this season. With Warren taking over passing duties, Harris’ numbers could fall even further.
As we’ve noted over the last several weeks, Warren has been the team’s best pass-protecting back of the season, too. Harris has struggled with his eyes and technique and isn’t performing nearly as well as he had last year. It’s been a tough year for Harris, suffering a Lisfranc injury on the first day of pads and likely being less than 100% since.
After stalling out Sunday, Pittsburgh will try to get its run game going in Week 6. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter with a quality run defense that’s allowed only three rushing touchdowns all season. They’re led by a stout front centered around NT Vita Vea, one of the league’s strongest players. It could make for a game in which the Steelers will be forced to pass which means seeing plenty of Warren and less of Harris.