The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t hit the practice field yet this week, but when they do, it’s not clear as of now when rookie running back Jaylen Warren will be available to participate. Exiting early from Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that Warren’s “availability is in question”.
Despite the fact that the offense went most of the way without Warren being available, that didn’t do too much to the benefit of Benny Snell Jr., the Steelers’ fourth-year back who has been demoted this year in favor of the rookie.
He did see his first three offensive snaps of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he did not touch the ball. Still, Tomlin seemed to express continued confidence in him should that situation arise, e.g. if Warren is not available against the Indianapolis Colts.
Asked about Warren’s injury in-game and if that had an impact on Najee Harris’ workload, Tomlin said via transcript, “It affected our intentions, but Benny Snell steps up and Naj absorbs more snaps, that’s football. The attrition component of play is a significant component of play”.
A fourth-round pick back in 2019, Snell has been reduced virtually to the role of special teamer this season despite having a prominent role in the past. He recorded over 100 carries in each of his first two seasons, though his numbers dipped all the way down to just 36 last year in Harris’ rookie season.
And to that point, Harris is not unfamiliar with a heavy workload. He played 100 percent of the snaps in a game multiple times during his rookie year, and at least 95 percent of the snaps a total of seven times. They have managed his workload drastically more this season, but that is precautionary.
“We tend to focus our energies on those available to us and don’t waste a lot of time lamenting the people that we don’t have”, Tomlin insisted in reflecting on Warren’s availability relative to that of Snell. “We have that mindset when we’re planning during the course of work week like this, or we have that same mentality when things transpire in game”.
An undrafted free agent, Warren has impressed since the first day of pads in training camp, and he’s only risen in status since then to the point where Tomlin is asked about him potentially playing more on a weekly basis.
Warren does have 54 touches on the season, recording 190 rush yards on 38 carries and adding another 137 receiving yards on 16 receptions. He does have one fumble, and he hasn’t found the end zone yet, but his status on the team is undisputed, seeing about a third of the snaps and earning situational roles on third down and in short yardage.