“He Didn’t Urinate Down His Leg, And That’s A Great Place To Begin” | Mike Tomlin Doesn’t Want Running Back Najee Harris’ Backup Jaylen Warren To Get A Big Head

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a wild 23-20 season-opening overtime win on the road over the defending AFC champions Cincinnati Bengals. The game offered a little bit of everything, from Joe Burrow having his first four-interception game, to Steelers starter Mitchell Trubisky making a miraculous throw to tight end Pat Freiermuth in overtime.

The wild AFC clash also had its share of injuries. Steelers stalwart edge rusher and reigning Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt tore his pectoral muscle, but after two opinions it emerges he won’t need season-ending surgery. Running back Najee Harris also aggravated his Lisfranc injury.

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin turned to undrafted rookie Jaylen Warren to fill the void left by Harris, who shattered Steelers rookie rushing records last season. And while, Warren wasn’t asked to tote the mail but three times for 7 yards, the former Oklahoma State Cowboys star did a great job in pass protection.

So much that Tomlin talked about him during his weekly Tuesday presser with reporters. In a video posted on the team’s YouTube page, the only coach in NFL history to begin his career with 15 consecutive non-losing seasons gave his young back some kudos.

“He didn’t urinate the down his leg, and that’s a great place to begin,” Tomlin said jokingly. “You know, that’s capable of happening for a young guy. But I think that’s been indicative of him through this process. That’s why he’s gone from undrafted to carving out a role for himself. No circumstance has been too big for him so far. He was competitive on Sunday. Good for him and good for us.”

It says a lot for an undrafted player to make the team at running back and then work his way into being Harris’ backup. Tomlin must have some real trust in him to put him out there in a high-pressure game such as the one that took place at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday. And it’s safe to say Warren passed his first test on the 23 snaps he participated in.

Warren’s Lone Season In Stillwater Helped Him Be Ready For His NFL Moment

Warren transferred to Oklahoma State after playing at Utah State. The move was to help him better prepare for the next level in an NFL-type offensive system. Warren hit the road running in Mike “I’m 40, I’m A Man” Gundy’s offense, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. But the key was the verbiage and concepts of the offense, which are eerily similar to what Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada runs.

Warren possesses home run ability and is the perfect complementary piece to the bruising but nimble Harris as the starter. He’s not “Fast” Willie Parker, the former Steelers tailback who holds the record for longest touchdown run (75 yards) in a Super Bowl. His dash in Super Bowl 40 broke Marcus Allen’s record of 74 yards from Super Bowl 18. But Warren is a better blocker and receiver when given the opportunity.

Steelers Have A Knack For Finding Quality Backs

Warren is the latest in a long line of quality backs that didn’t have much fanfare coming out of college. The aforementioned Parker had elite speed. Rashad Mendenhall possessed speed and elite power. Amos Zereoue was a scatback who’d do wonders in today’s game. LeVeon Bell became a stud, but he wasn’t a highly ballyhooed prospect either.

Former Pitt running back James Conner was a beast until his bout with cancer (which he won) and injuries eventually forced the team to move on from him. He’s rebounded nicely in Arizona.

So you get the idea, Tomlin knows Harris is his bell cow, but he trusts Warren enough to hold down the fort if Harris needs a break or is out. That’s a huge development for an undrafted rookie, and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.


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