Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren has joined the podcasting world, and it took less than 10 minutes into the first episode of The Jaylen Warren Show, which is part of The Sick Podcast Media, for the 24-year-old to address the apparent running back competition between himself and 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris.
Only according to Warren, there is no competition.
Warren strongly pushed back on the idea that he could become Pittsburgh’s top running back this season. On his podcast on September 5, Warren made it clear that he’s the “complement” to Harris, who he called “the workhorse.”
“That narrative, people have talked to me about it. There’s personal stories about it, but honestly, it’s not like that at all. I don’t look at him as competition,” Warren said. “I’m not in there every day like, ‘Oh, I’m going to take his job.’
“Everybody you know that’s a fan of the Steelers on our roster, the staff, we all know we need Najee [Harris] to win. So when it comes to that narrative, I block it out.
“There’s going to be critics everywhere, people are going to have opinions. But that’s what I like about the atmosphere of the team. We don’t let it get to us.”
Jaylen Warren Emerging as Strong Compliment to Najee Harris
The supposed running back competition in Pittsburgh has been brewing for much of the offseason.
While Harris has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, he’s left a little to be desired from a big-play perspective. He averaged 3.8 yards per rush during 2022.
Warren, though, recorded 4.9 yards per carry as an undrafted rookie last season. Warren helped that average with three runs longer than 20 yards.
Harris had only one carry go for more than 20 yards in 2022 despite having 272 attempts. Warren had 77 carries.
Warren continued to pop big runs during the preseason with a 62-yard touchdown against the Buffalo Bills. Harris had a 12-yard run against the Atlanta Falcons, but for the most part, he had an uneventful preseason.
A strong camp and preseason from Warren caused Steelers analysts such as SI.com’s AllSteelers’ Noah Strackbein to question whether Harris should remain the team’s starter.
“Warren has been far and beyond the best running back on the Steelers training camp roster,” Strackbein wrote on August 17. “He looks stronger, faster and more well-rounded than the former first-round pick, Harris.
“Maybe that’s by design. The Steelers have limited Harris’s reps during camp, keeping him to bare minimum work throughout the summer. Why? We don’t know, but it’s cause for concern as they approach the season.”
Matt Canada’s Response to Warren-Harris Competition
The running back competition narrative has grown so loud in Pittsburgh that Warren addressed the issue himself on his first podcast.
Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada responded to Harris critics as well late in the preseason.
“I think that Najee’s [Harris] our one. There’s no doubt about that,” Canada told the media, according to CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo. “And I mean, I think we’re protecting him to get him to that point.
“I’m never going to lock ourselves into any kind of what it’s going to be or how it’s going to go. I don’t think that’s fair to anybody. But that’s certainly, we’re planning on Najee being Najee, you know, when we start the regular season.”
Warren clearly understands that and accepts his role as the compliment to Harris. But words from the backup running back and offensive coordinator will only go so far.
The best way to crush the narrative spreading among Steelers fans that Warren should start ahead of Harris is for Harris to get off to a fast start in the 2023 season.