After signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent last season, running back Jaylen Warren emerged as the team’s third-down back in their Week 5 game against the Buffalo Bills, and held the role for the rest of the season when he was healthy. Heading into Year Two, Warren said he expects to get more work in passing situations.
“What they’re telling me is I feel like I’m going to get a lot more of that. I proved myself that I can hold my ground in those situations, and the good part about it is I’m having fun,” Warren said in an interview with Missi Matthews of Steelers.com following an OTA session. “Pass protection isn’t a downfall to me. I enjoy pass protection and catching out of the backfield. That stuff is something, I’ve always been confident at.”
Despite not being the biggest guy out there by any means, Warren laid the boom in pass protection or out in space more than a few times. It’s clearly something that he enjoys doing, as he said, and it’s something he’s good at it. It’s a win-win for the Steelers, as it reduces Najee Harris’ workload and protects his body in pass protection, and Warren is just better at that aspect of the game, as well.
Pass protection isn’t the only reason he gets passing down work either, as he’s shown to be more than capable as a pass catcher. Warren had 28 receptions on 33 targets for 214 yards and 14 first downs through the air last year, with a long of 26 yards. He’s shifty and showed that he has solid hands out of the backfield and can run through or around guys.
The third-down back role is perfect for Warren, but he’s not only limited to that. He made plays in the run game last year as well, and with an offseason where he’s solidly locked in as the team’s No. 2 running back, he should improve as a runner and a receiver. Warren is someone who grinded his way to a roster spot, and I would expect him to keep grinding and getting better and better each year of his NFL career. I’m excited to see him get to work this season and see how much bigger his role will be and if he can perform as well as he did during his rookie season.