Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada joined the list of people who had praise for undrafted rookie running back Jaylen Warren. In his press conference today, Canada talked about what he thought about Warren’s first performance in the NFL.
“Talk about being in deep water with the big sharks. I thought he jumped in and played really well in the situation we were in. You’re playing the conference champions at home in an overtime game, Najee’s been out and he’s playing. I thought none of us were perfect, obviously, but as far as stepping in and being what we needed at that time, I think he did a great job,” Canada said via official transcript provided by the team.
While his three carries for seven yards don’t jump off the page, Warren was a major asset as a blocker. He made a lot of key plays in the blocking game that allowed the Steelers offense to continue to run smoothly after Najee Harris exited the game with an injury in the late fourth quarter. Check out Josh Carney’s film room on Warren to see more of him as a blocker from Sunday’s game.
Harris should be good to go this week as he was a full participant in practice today, but Warren likely showed enough to take over some more snaps from Harris.
With Harris already having dealt with a Lisfranc injury in the preseason and now another foot/ankle injury cropping up, Pittsburgh is going to have to find a way to limit his touches. While you can’t deny his talent, you also can’t continue to give him a league-leading amount of touches year in and year out and expect him to stay healthy. If Warren continues to impress the coaching staff, his touches are going to increase throughout the year.
Pittsburgh has had a nice history with undrafted free agent running backs. Willie Parker (Warren’s cousin) and Isaac Redman were both undrafted free agents who went on to make an impact with the Steelers. Warren, with his willingness to block and aggressiveness at hitting holes, could be the next undrafted free agent at the position who impresses in Pittsburgh. It’s only been one game so far, but Warren is doing the stuff that keeps you around in the NFL as a back. He gets out and blocks, he isn’t afraid to hit and he’s willing to stand in against an oncoming rusher up in pass protection. If he keeps doing those things at a high level, there will be a place for him on an NFL roster.
Let’s see if Warren is able to factor in more on Sunday with Harris coming off his injury. If he does, expect him to make an impact in some facet of the game.