Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren was a revelation as an undrafted free agent, emerging as a legitimate threat in the backfield along with former first-round pick Najee Harris. After spending time at Utah State and in junior college, Warren burst onto the scene his lone year at Oklahoma State, running for 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Cowboys. He returned to watch practice at OSU and talked to Ben and Sam Hutchens from the O’Colly, Oklahoma State’s student newspaper, about his biggest surprise in the NFL and what OSU means to him.
“I guess the practices,” Warren said of his biggest surprise. “Strength and conditioning, I’m thinking it’s going to be harder than college, but over there it’s really about maintaining what you got, what you came in with. The hardest part is the offseason. I enjoy the process of it all, though. I love putting in that work.”
Warren put in the work early and often after arriving in Pittsburgh, as he was a standout in training camp and the preseason. When he had issues with fumbles, he carried a football everywhere he went during training camp to work on holding onto the football.
Oklahoma State is clearly a place that means a lot to Warren, and he talked about how much his one year at the school meant to him.
“Cause this place made me,” Warren said when asked about why he returned to OSU. “I like what this place is all about…I don’t think there’s a better place I could have went to. With what they’re all about, I feel like you want to continue to put yourself in an environment that keeps that around. I don’t think I’ll ever forget about this place. This place definitely changed my life so I like to get back when I can.”
It’s cool to see Warren have such a connection to the school that put him on the NFL radar and helped his dream of playing professional football come true. It’s always nice to see guys give back, and Warren being around the program surely means a lot to the OSU staff and players still in the program. It’s not all that often that guys take time during the offseason to come back and hang out around their college program. It’s nice to see Warren do so and give back a little place to a place he seems to really care about.
Warren’s going to continue taking on a bigger role in Pittsburgh. He emerged as the team’s primary third-down back early into last season. With a full offseason and training camp to prepare for that role, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Warren take big strides next season. As good as Harris was during the second half of the season, he’s already dealt with injuries in the NFL level. He was clearly hampered by the foot injury he suffered in training camp last season in the early part of 2022.
With a year of NFL experience and more time to prepare for a heavy workload, expect Warren to see an increase in snaps and an increase in touches. He had 77 carries for 379 yards and a touchdown last season along with 28 catches for 214 yards. I think those numbers will increase next year. Not only will an increase in snaps from Warren help lighten Harris’ workload, but Warren is a threat with the ball in his hands and I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw a few more explosive plays out of him in 2023.
Pittsburgh’s run game is going to be better in 2023. With the additions of guards Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig, the team added two maulers in the run game who can open up holes for Harris and Warren. Mike Tomlin said last week that the team wants to be a run-heavy football team, and those additions on the offensive line speak to that. If Harris and Warren step up as expected, the Pittsburgh run game could be among the league’s best next season.