PITTSBURGH — Does Pittsburgh have a two-headed monster at running back? Under the Mike Tomlin-led Steelers, a two-headed monster in the backfield seemed to be impossible. Even with Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, the Steelers always paved ahead with one workhorse running back. But Najee Harris could change the organization’s viewpoint on that topic.
Jaylen Warren has garnered more carries each week due to his strong level of play. Now, with Warren having a nearly even snap count with Harris throughout the game, both of them had productive games. Harris averaged over 5 yards per carry, while Warren made key plays.
For Najee Harris, that is going to be an adjustment. But it is one that he feels was needed in the grand scheme of things. The Steelers sat down with Harris prior to the season and told him that his usage would have to go down. So, it was no surprise when Warren started to play well that Harris’ usage went down. And for Harris, Warren is pulling the team up while helping him stay fresh.
“I mean, Jaylen made two of the most important plays of the game at the end with the catches,” Harris said. “It helped out a lot. They came in and told me this year that they would take some pressure off me. They realized they couldn’t put me on the field all the time as I did this year. They said, ‘you need some help if you’re going to be here long enough’, and so, him coming in and making those two plays helped. But before that, I fumbled. So, him coming in and to do all of that, it helps out the team so much.”
Warren had to earn those reps. It did not start off as a Harris and Warren duo. But eventually, Warren won the third down running back job. Then, Warren snipped into more of Harris’ carries overall. Now, the Steelers are going with the two-headed monster because it is working.
“We’ve been talking about it,” Mike Tomlin said. “Jaylen has been playing well and deserving more reps, and what transpired today was reflective of that.”
Warren is taking his reps in stride. An undrafted rookie who has never had it easy, Warren has ground his way from a fringe roster spot all the way to a significant contributor on offense. He is taking his role in stride, and being the second head of the two-headed monster in the backfield is not a bad way to acclimate himself to the NFL environment.
“It’s been huge and Najee is an inspiration to me,” Warren said. “Man, I always look forward to being a complementary force. It’s a huge deal to me. However I can ease the work for him, he is a workhorse and would take every snap if he could, so as a team, we always look up to that. So, wherever I fit in, I’ll do that.”
The 200 yards rushing is the first time the Steelers have eclipsed that number since Week 14 in Buffalo in the 2016 season when Le’Veon Bell dashed in the snow against the Buffalo Bills for over 230 yards. Warren, Harris, and the entire Steelers offense hope that the running backs can continue to carry them forward. For a two-headed monster, Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren are providing they might have the goods to become just that.