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Pro Football Focus Names Jaylen Warren As Steelers’ ‘Most Underrated’ Player

It was quite the rookie season for undrafted free agent Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren in 2022.

Not only did Warren, who was buried on the depth chart at the start of training camp behind Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell Jr., Master Teague, Mateo Durant and more, land the No. 2 role behind Najee Harris, the Oklahoma State product became a vital piece of the Steelers’ offense in 2022.

Now, ahead of his second season in 2023, Warren is expected to take on an even larger role, and in the process was named by Pro Football Focus as the Steelers’ “most underrated player.”

“Warren was one of the most efficient pass catchers out of the backfield in 2022,” PFF’s William Moy writes. “The undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma State was one of 45 RBs last season to see at least 30 targets in the passing game and among that group, he ranked fourth with a 79.8 receiving grade. Additionally, he ranked second by converting 43.8 percent of his catchable targets into either a first down or touchdown.”

Early in training camp, Warren was buried on the depth chart at the position. But through hard work, consistency and the ability to hold up rather well in pass protection he rocketed up the depth chart and earned the No. 2 job behind Harris, providing the Steelers with a dependable 1-2 punch in the backfield.

Warren often found himself on the field in passing situations when he could catch the ball out of the backfield in large part due to his work in pass protection. Warren was rather good in that area of the game as an undrafted free agent, providing some serious toughness and physicality in front of quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett.

At times last season, Warren was the spark plug the Steelers offense needed, which enabled him to really take over as the No. 2 behind Harris, working his way into the third-down back role starting in Week 5.

Warren’s rookie season was one that the Steelers desperately needed, solving a long-term issue in identifying a No. 2 running back. Warren’s burst onto the scene forced head coach Mike Tomlin to move away from his old-school “workhorse back” nature of taking a 220+ pounder and running him into the ground, like he’d done in the past with Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, and Harris.

Warren’s emergence helped keep Harris fresh and healthy and allowed him to run like a first-round pick down the stretch as Pittsburgh leaned on, and then won with, its running game in the second half of the season.

Warren’s 28 receptions were the second most by any Steelers undrafted free agent as a rookie, just behind former Steelers receiver Eli Rogers. Warren’s 379 rushing yards were also second most by a Steelers undrafted free agent as a rookie, behind Warren Heller, who ran for 528 yards in 1934.

Coming off of a strong rookie season that very clearly has him on the map not only in Pittsburgh but across the league, the onus is now on Warren. He has to take that next step as a runner and receiver while still carrying on that dominance in pass protection and bringing serious physicality to the position overall.

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