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Jaylen Warren Sees Receiving Bonanza for Steelers Backs: ‘We’re Involved a Lot in the Pass Game’

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren sees more opportunities to make plays in the air in Arthur Smith’s offense.



Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jaylen Warren
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren during OTAs at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on May 28, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — If you know one thing about an Arthur Smith-run offense, it’s probably that when he was with the Tennessee Titans, the new Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator built an offense that was one of the best in the NFL, largely pounding the rock with big back Derrick Henry. But there are more layers to Smith’s scheme and the way it uses its running backs, and one of the big beneficiaries could be third-year Steelers back Jaylen Warren.

Last season, when Smith was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, running backs Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier were third and seventh on the team in targets, with a combined 109 passing targets between them — and not just check-downs. Robinson averaged 8.4 yards per catch and Allgeier 10.7, giving Atlanta one of the most explosive running back pass catching duos in the league.

In Pittsburgh, Warren and Najee Harris combined for 112 targets in 2023, but it was a lot of short, underneath action. Warren averaged 6.1 yards per catch, and Harris a dismal 5.9.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jaylen Warren

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren celebrates with wide receiver George Pickens during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 23, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Warren’s eyes lit up when asked about the potential for backs to be involved more in the passing game this season on Wednesday.

“Oh yeah. We’re involved a lot in the pass game,“ he said. “Learning the new offense, it’s a whole bunch we’re involved in. I’m excited for that. … Wherever I’m called at, when I’m called, I just go out there and perform, do what I can for the team.”

Just in general, Warren said that he sees more buy-in from the team in the offensive game plan under Smith, compared to what the team was doing under Matt Canada last season.

“The intensity. Everybody’s bought into one thing,” he said. “There’s no space wondering how we’re trying to run our offense. Everybody’s on the same page and I think you can tell a huge difference with that. … We’re still looking for an identity. We don’t know what’s there yet. But we’re all bought into the same narrow road”

Warren’s path will once again involve splitting time with Harris, and the veteran back is in OTAs, working hard — and getting noticed — despite entering the final year of his deal, something Warren said has been a tone-setter for everyone.

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“He comes in, you can tell he plays with heart,” Warren said. “You can tell he’s one of the dudes that’s bought in. He brings his intensity in every day and we all feed off that. … We get competitive. It’s just the nature of our ball. … One match is lit, and then lights all the other matches.”

Despite the pair of quality backs, Warren said he sees more than enough room for both of them to thrive in the new offense, and he doesn’t care who is the biggest recipient of the additional work for the position.

“Me, anybody. I just want to score. I just want to win. Scoring wins games. So let’s win.”