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Jaylen Warren is Having Breakout Season with Steelers



Steelers RB Jaylen Warren Kenny Pickett
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren and wide receiver Calvin Austin III celebrate in the end zone against the Buffalo Bills in a preseason game on Aug. 20, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Jaylen Warren is not a featured running back. But he is eating into the work that Najee Harris is receiving. After the run game put up 166 yards, with Warren scouting for nearly half of those, it’s somehow easier to overlook what Warren is doing this year. He is not some player who is repeating what he did a year ago but taking it to new heights. Rookie tackle Broderick Jones praised both Warren and Harris for their ability to crack open the big run.

“It’s a team effort,” Jones said. “Those guys do a great job of seeing the holes, being able to hit it downhill. They do a great job of second level contact. Like, running through contact, all of those things play a factor in the ground game. So, it’s a team effort.”

Jaylen Warren, though, is playing on a different level on a per carry basis than not just Harris but everyone else in the NFL. He leads the NFL in forced missed tackles per attempt at 0.32 this season. That comes on carries, but Warren does the same when he gets the ball in space on receptions.  Warren leads the league in yards per route run out of the backfield at 2.1 yards per route run.

Steelers RB Jaylen Warren

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren is tackled by Atlanta Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Add it in with the already impressive pass-protection skills, and Warren is having a much better year than he did a year ago, even with worse blocking than he received last season. His explosive play rate and efficiency have skyrocketed. To his credit, Harris is right there with him. These running backs are massive net positives for Pittsburgh. With the offense trying to find footing, Warren and Harris are two players they must feature.

Warren Continues to Impress

The most significant leap Warren has made is in his receiving ability. He breaks tackles in the open field and creates something out of nothing far more often than you would think in those tight areas. He adds a dynamic factor this team has not had in the backfield for a while, and it’s helped out Najee Harris. Warren’s explosiveness and decisiveness have taken a quantum leap forward this season. He came in looking bigger, and this is one of those cases where ‘best shape of life season’ actually comes to fruition. Warren looks more athletic.

Of course, he has to continue that level of play throughout the season, but it does appear Warren is slowing down. Even when factoring in blocking, Warren is creating 4.74 yards per touch, the fourth-best mark in the NFL. We are talking about one of the NFL’s more efficient and slippery running backs.

. Harris can get Pittsburgh those hidden yards in the scheme’s context, which is important. But no one has been able to handle the efficient Warren when allowed space. If Pittsburgh starts to get their schematics and blocking rolling like they have a bit the last few weeks, Warren’s breakout season will become that much clearer.