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Steelers RB Rotation Needs No Change

Despite talk of Jaylen Warren's emergence, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a plan that works.

It is no secret that Pittsburgh Steelers fans are displeased with the way Najee Harris has played since being drafted in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Averaging just 3.9 yards per carry across 37 games isn't a good look.

Of course, the Steelers' offensive line has been a bit shoddy over the three seasons in which Harris has been employed by Pittsburgh. The team shelled out a lot of money in the offseason to try and beef up the offensive line. That hasn't quite been reflected in their play.

These days, taking a running back in the first round is typically an afterthought unless you're getting a Christian McCaffrey or Nick Chubb-caliber player. The position has clearly been devalued by the league, as evidenced in their struggles to get paid properly. With the emergence of talented quarterbacks, the league trends towards gaudy passing statistics.

Of course, the old-fashioned Steelers still want to be a run-heavy team. Mike Tomlin has always seen his team that way, even when Ben Roethlisberger controlled the offense. It's just the nature of their ways. That is why they invested so heavily in the offensive line to try and aid their former first-rounder in Harris.

Just three games into the season, there is no doubt that Jaylen Warren, a former undrafted free agent, is cutting into Harris' workload.

Warren was a camp darling last season who made the team and eventually ran with the backup role, supplanting both Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland. Warren, a 5'8", 215-pound wrecking ball, is an exceptional pass blocker who plays bigger than his stature. He isn't afraid to take on any pass-rusher. That is a huge reason why he shot up the depth chart.

His production out of the running back spot has certainly been of impact as well. He averages 4.6 yards per carry, albeit on way fewer totes than Harris has received. Warren is also the better of the two in terms of receiving.

A lot of chatter lately has been about whether Warren should take over as the starting running back. There is certainly a case to be made. He's been electric in his limited role. However, the narrative is that he'd be the clear number one right now if Harris wasn't a first-round choice. That claim also has merit.

The thing with Harris is that when he's been given holes this season, he's actually made the most of them.

A stat like that proves that Harris is capable of ripping off runs when the line gives him that chance. However, the problem there is that Warren is getting that same play from the offensive line and gaining yards more consistently than Harris is.

Harris' pedigree and play at Alabama certainly prove that he has the capability to be a feature back. He just might be a guy who also benefits from having lightning to his thunder.

Overexposing Warren might not be a great idea, either. He's great in a change-of-pace-type role. The Steelers don't need to mess with that. More and more teams are employing the running-back-by-committee approach. The Miami Dolphins just had their running backs combine for seven touchdowns last Sunday alone.

If things continue to trend the way they are, there is certainly a chance that Warren finds himself slowly taking over the lion's share of carries in the Steelers' backfield. However, allowing both guys to just do their thing may ultimately end up benefitting the Steelers the most instead of trying to force one guy to be a starter over the other.

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