It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers would like to upgrade their running back depth behind 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris. That helps explain why the team signed former Tennessee Titans third-down back Jeremy McNichols on July 26.
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It also explains why the Steelers inked two UDFA free agent running backs after the 2022 draft, including Mataeo Durant, who was viewed as one of the leading contenders to be this year’s “camp phenom,” in part because Durant received the largest UDFA RB contract in franchise history.
As it turns out, it’s a different rookie UDFA tailback who has been garnering rave reviews from players, coaches and media, that being Jaylen Warren, who played his college football at Oklahoma State.
Jaylen Warren: ‘A Downhill Back’
“Warren has been a standout in team periods with his straightforward, hard-running style,” observed Mark Kaboly of The Athletic on August 1.
“He’s a downhill back,” said Steelers linebacker Myles Jack, as per Kaboly. “He’s getting his shoulders square. He looks really good. You can tell he was going to run tough when we had shorts and helmets on. To see him do the same thing with pads on, it just shows you what kind of running back he is.”
Despite being listed at just 5-foot-8 and 215 pounds, Warren has also held his own in the team’s backs on backers drills.
Warren “stood out in backs on backers” during practice on Monday, noted Dale Lolley of DK Pittsburgh Sports. “He did a nice job in three reps against (rookie linebacker) Mark Robinson, getting kudos from the coaches.”
“He has an appetite for competition,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin about Warren, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
All that said, it’s no surprise that Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report has labeled Warren as the “1 UDFA with (the) Best Chance” to make Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster.
Warren and Durant are competing with veterans Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. for a backup job behind Harris, who carried the ball 307 times last season and had 74 receptions.
At this point, Snell is probably still the leading contender to serve as RB2, as he’s the most experienced and proven option (even though he gained just 98 yards last season and averaged 2.7 yards per carry).
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Chris Boswell Now Tied With Justin Tucker as Highest-Paid Kicker
Meanwhile, we now know that Chris Boswell’s contract extension is worth $20 million, with $12.5 million guaranteed, as per ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
“The four-year extension ties Boswell with Justin Tucker as the highest-paid kickers in NFL history,” notes Schefter, making reference to Baltimore Ravens All-Pro Justin Tucker.
According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Boswell’s deal includes an $8 million signing bonus.
Boswell, 31, has been Pittsburgh’s placekicker since 2015. He has converted 88.3% of his field goal attempts and 94.3% of his extra-point attempts over the course of his career. Yet he has earned Pro Bowl honors just once — in 2017. Mike Tomlin is said to frequently tweak Boswell about being something less than Tucker, the latter a five-time first-team All-Pro, who has a 91.1% career field goal percentage and a 99% extra point conversion rate.
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