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‘Haven’t Earned Anything’: Steelers RB Jaylen Warren Still Playing with Undrafted Mindset



Steelers RB Jaylen Warren
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren at training camp, Aug. 2, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

UNITY TWP., Pa. — In 2022, Jaylen Warren was the talk of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp at St. Vincent College.

The undrafted free agent came out of nowhere to not only make the team but claim his spot at the top backup option to Najee Harris in the Steelers running back room. 

Then, he went on to out-perform even Harris on a rate basis in the 2022 season,  rushing 77 times for 379 yards, a 4.9 yards per carry average, compared to Harris’ 3.8.

Warren also became infamous for his violent pass blocking tendencies, repeatedly putting opposing blitzers into the turf. That’s a rare trait for any rookie, let alone one that is listed at 5-foot-8 and 215 pounds.

Warren’s rookie season was a revelation for the Steelers, who have struggled to find depth at the running back position despite using multiple late-round picks over the last few years.

This season, at training camp, things are quieter for Warren. He’s no longer a training camp phenom. His role as the best non-Harris back on the team is largely cemented. There’s nothing really for him to prove that he hasn’t proven already.

But he hasn’t stopped playing like his hair is on fire. Warren has been one of the stars of the backs on backers drill, and finished the second round of it by putting veteran inside linebacker Elandon Roberts on his backside.

“He’s a hard hitter,” Warren said. “If I want to sharpen my sword, I had better go against him. … He’s just big bodied and he’ll hit you. My second rep over there the (first) time we did backs on backers was with him and he gave me a pretty good hit. That’s what I like. Iron sharpens iron.”

“It’s getting us better,” Roberts said. “He plays to stay in front of me and got a good finish at the end.”

That approach, the idea that he wants to seek out the biggest, toughest, strongest guy on the other side and immediately test himself against him is what served Warren so well as a rookie. And even though he’s much more established now, he doesn’t seem ready to give that mindset up. 

“He’s still extremely urgent and highly competitive,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “And that’s probably the appropriate recipe the minute he starts, you know, exhaling is when he and we are going to have major issues. I like the energy he’s bringing; he’s sustained it. He’s got some experience to go along with it, and I think that’s what you value.”

The combination of experience and effort should make Warren even more dangerous going forward, even if his camp performance this year doesn’t have the same hype as a year ago.

“I feel like I haven’t earned anything,” Warren said. “I have one season under my belt, that’s the only difference. I’m still hungry.”

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