UNITY TWP., Pa. — Jaylen Warren came into training camp as one of the undrafted free agents the Steelers signed to compete in a running back room that could use a push. With guys like Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland trying to entrench themselves, Warren saw a potential opportunity to do something.
Thus far in training camp, no one would have been able to see what Warren has done coming. It seems like every day, there is something that Warren puts out on the field that impresses coaches, players, fans, and reporters alike. He has been a three-faceted player, showcasing himself as a shifty runner, reliable receiver, and stout pass protector. With Snell, Jeremy McNichols, and Najee Harris all banged up, Warren’s got some increased opportunity.
That has included a stint with the first-team offense at times. On Wednesday, Warren went 40 yards down the sideline in the Steelers’ two-minute drill to get a chunk play. The day before, he made dazzling cuts to rip off an explosive run. In backs on backers, Warren has competed with the best of them and won most of his reps. It seems that everything he could do, he has done in some manner.
“I’ve never been one to do too much,” Warren said. “I just do what I can and whatever comes after that comes. I put in the necessary work to showcase my talents.”
Jaylen Warren Has a Steelers Connection
Warren has a Steelers connection, though. He is the cousin of former Steelers running back and Super Bowl champion Willie Parker. It has been Parker and Warren’s mentor, former Vikings running back Matt Asiata, that has guided him through the process. For Warren, who did not know what to expect heading into an NFL training camp, it was those mentors that Warren leaned upon to start strong.
“Willie Parker, my long-lost cousin, he played here a while ago has helped me,” Warren said. “I have a running back coach in Utah in Matt Asiata, they have given me pointers. You have to work for everything. I come from a background where not a lot is given. So, to get these opportunities, I have to make the most of it.”
It started with a conditioning program that the Steelers gave Warren after the team went their separate ways after the mandatory minicamp. Warren was conditioned, but it may not have been enough. So, Warren went to the hills of Utah and trained every day. That included running hills, sprints, and more. Now, with more of a workload, it has been Warren who has stuck out in a good way.
“I need to keep it up,” Warren said. “I can’t do anything to mess up my opportunities. Listen, I have a really thin line coming in as an undrafted rookie. I can’t make the mistakes some other guys can. I just try to put my best foot forward.”
Indeed, Warren has done just that. So much so, that Mike Tomlin has praised Warren’s ability to be conditioned where he is at this point. With the increased workload, it has been Warren who has flashed with even the higher units due to some injuries in the running back room. Warren’s found treasure has been in those opportunities.
“He has an appetite for competition,” Tomlin said of Warren. “He’s learning and learning fast. I think the most significant thing that really has captured my attention is that he seems really comfortable in these waters from a competition standpoint.”
Teammates Impressed by Jaylen Warren
Warren’s path is anything but easy. It goes from JUCO to Utah State and then finally ends in Stillwater, Oklahoma, with Oklahoma State. So, Warren is conditioned to be in the space from a competition standpoint. All of the defensive players are noticing, so much so that they have started joking that the 5-foot-9, 215-pound Warren is similar to Maurice Jones-Drew.
Linebacker Myles Jack has gone up against Warren enough times to know what the back can bring to the table. To say the least, it is not just Jack that is impressed by him. Warren has become the talk of the town amongst the Steelers defensive players as his strong camp continues.
“He’s a tough back, I like him,” Jack said of Warren. “He’s a downhill back, he gets his shoulders square, and he looked like that without the pads. You could tell he was going to run tough when we had shorts and helmets on. To see him do the same things when the pads on, shows the type of running back he is.”
Warren’s stocky frame has brought up the Jones-Drew jokes. His frame among NFL running backs is uncommon, but guys like Jones-Drew and Doug Martin have carried out long careers with a similar frame. Jack and the defense have compared him, even in jest, to those guys.
“He’s definitely stocky,” Jack said. “We were making jokes calling him Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s a stocky, powerful back and getting physical.”
Can Warren make the 53-man roster? He will have to play at a high level throughout the preseason and showcase his special teams’ ability. However, Warren has done just about everything he can to this point to make the roster.