As the Pittsburgh Steelers search for answers to aid a struggling offense after a 2-6 record to open the season, could undrafted rookie running back Jaylen Warren leapfrog first-round pick Najee Harris in the backfield?
Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked directly on Tuesday if he would consider moving Warren to a featured role in the offense. Tomlin was evasive, as usual, but didn't discount the possibility.
"You know he's a quality back that's made some plays," Tomlin said of Warren. "We'll keep giving him an opportunity to do so, and maybe he'll write that script."
Harris has struggled to open the season, generating 361 yards and one touchdown on 108 carries through eight games. Harris is averaging 45.1 rush yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry, the fewest YPC among 41 players with 70-plus carries in 2022. Meanwhile, Warren, who has earned a more prominent third-down role in recent weeks, is averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 29 attempts.
Harris dealt with a Lisfranc injury during training camp. And while he hasn't missed action, the injury has clearly slowed the back this season.
"To what degree, I don't know," Tomlin said of Harris' injury affecting his play. "He's playing, and so obviously he's healthy enough to play. I'll let him speak to that.
"But both guys (Harris and Warren) have been available to us. We've gotten some awesome contributions from Jaylen, and it's reasonable to expect that to continue."
Coming out of the bye, the Steelers could siphon off some of Harris' workload, making the backfield a larger timeshare moving forward.
The offensive line struggles haven't aided either running back, but Warren has displayed more consistent tackle-breaking ability in his limited reps. Beginning Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, who rank 19th against the run, the rookie could get a chance to cement a significant role in the offense as the Steelers attempt to turn their season around.