Mike Tomlin Considering Changes to RB Timeshare Between Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers got serious about making changes to their offense during their bye week, and one of them could involve a change in the distribution of reps between running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.
Harris has been the team’s starter since being drafted as the team’s first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The team entered the 2022 season wanting to reduce Harris’ workload after he led all NFL running backs in snaps as a rookie in 2021.
But in 2022, Warren, an undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma State, has done more than spell Harris to keep him fresh. Through eight games, Warren has 5.3 yards per carry, while Harris’ average has dropped from 3.9 yards per carry in 2021 to 3.3 yards per carry this season.
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There are a number of reasons for that, including a Lisfranc sprain that Harris suffered the preseason, and him getting a much more of the usage on obvious run downs. But Mike Tomlin sounds like a coach this is unafraid of making a change.
Tomlin said that over the bye week, the team’s coaching staff spent most of its extra time on self-scouting and finding ways to improve in all three phases. One of those ways is making changes to the distribution of the reps.
“We spent a lot of time on how we’re dividing the labor up and who we’re choosing to feature,” Tomlin said. “When we were talking about division of labor, who has done what and who has done what well, I know [running back] was a topic of discussion and very evident in our tape review.”
Tomlin did acknowledge that Harris’ injury has been a factor to this point, but pivoted right back to crediting the work that the understudy has done while Harris has been banged up.
“To what degree, I don’t know,” Tomlin said. “He’s playing and so obviously, he’s healthy enough to play. I’ll let him speak to that. Both guys have been available to us. We’ve gotten some awesome contributions from Jaylen. It’s reasonable to expect that to continue.”
Asked point-blank if he would consider making Warren a featured back, Tomlin left the door open.
“He’s a quality back that’s made some plays,” Tomlin said. “We’ll keep giving him an opportunity to do so and maybe he’ll write that script.”