Could Pittsburgh debut a running back-by-committee approach in Sunday's season opener?
After a summer of intrigue at the position, Steelers RBs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren are expected to split carries against San Francisco today, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on NFL GameDay Morning.
"Of course, Najee Harris is going to be the starter, gonna get first- and second-down snaps. Jaylen Warren, third-down snaps," Rapoport said. "But Warren is expected to get a little more first- and second-down snaps than usual, splitting carries in Pittsburgh."
Warren, a second-year back out of Oklahoma State, eating up some of Harris' touches has fantasy implications, sure, but it also underscores Pittsburgh's desire to potentially lessen the load on Harris in 2023.
The third-year runner led the league in touches (381) as a rookie en route to a Pro Bowl appearance. Since entering the league in 2020, Harris has logged 694 touches, the most in the NFL in that span, outpacing Josh Jacobs, last year's leading rusher, by 30.
Though he logged a second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, Harris saw his production dip slightly in his second year, while Warren developed a role as a third-down back; the rookie finished 2022 with 593 yards from scrimmage and a score on 105 touches (77 rushes).
Warren staked his claim to a greater role in the offense this August when he rattled off a 62-yard highlight-reel score against Buffalo's first-team defense and picked up a second TD in Atlanta. But the former UDFA said this week he isn't coming for Harris' job.
"No, it's not at all a competition. I'm here to complement Najee; that's the workhorse," Warren said on The Jaylen Warren Show. "That narrative people have talked to me about it, it's not like that at all. I don't go in there daily thinking about it like, 'Oh, I'm going to take his job.'"
We'll see Sunday afternoon just how complementary Warren's role will be.