PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – From the second week of training camp you could tell undrafted rookie running back Jaylen Warren had a good chance to make the team. His stock would only rise, but he was taking no chances before the 4p deadline Tuesday to set NFL team rosters.
“People were congratulating me at 3:55,” Warren said. “We still got five minutes. I’m over there hiding in the corner. I didn’t want to be too sure.”
When it struck 4p and he was on the team. He first called his mom, then his dad saying it was a dream come true. He’s also excited that instead of a temporary locker in the middle of the room, he will soon have a permanent home for his things alongside his teammates.
“I shocked myself to be able to compete with these guys,” Warren said. “Obviously, there are great athletes all around. Being able to compete with them, I felt like it made be better in a sense, all aspects of the game.”
“When I saw progress and when a NFL coach sees something in me, I feel like I’m doing something right.”
Warren’s emergence began in OTAs and then in mini-camp, but there is really no hitting in those sessions. The questions remained, can he do this when the defense was hitting. He’s shown he can. He led the backs in the preseason with 16 carries for 48 yards (2nd only to Anthony McFarland), making the most of the room he had to run. He also was second on the team with seven receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown
Even when he failed-fumbling twice-once in practice and once in the first preseason game. He carried a football, ‘Jaylen’s baby’, around everywhere in training camp and did it with a determination instead of it being a burden.
What you really can’t measure in light-hitting off-season workouts, special teams. He didn’t have a tackle in the three preseason games, but seems to have held his own to be make the roster. He hasn’t been in tackling drills since high school.
“I like the contact of it,” Warren said. “My experience with tackling hasn’t been great. Growing up I got juked a lot. Learning the techniques that come with it. It does open a new aspect of the game to me as far as seeing what’s on the field, pre-snap. It helps with my game overall.”
“It gave me a high running down and going to hit somebody. I felt like that’s fun. I was excited to do that.”
He also had to prove he could block, he showed that off a little against the Lions. It was a skill he felt like he had to prove.
“I feel like blocking was kinda the reason I was overlooked in the draft process,” Warren said. “I feel like proving I could block was a big thing for me.”
What you notice when talking to Warren is that every day seems like his first. There is an innocence and amazement that he gets to put on a black-and-gold uniform. I’m sure at some point it will fade, but it hasn’t yet.
“Every day I come to the facility, I see the Steelers logo,” Warren said. “I’m really going to the Steelers facility. I still get the same high I got from the first time I walked up in here.”
“It’s still surreal, but I feel like I have to tone it down and stay focused. I can’t get too hyped, too star-struck. I got to control it and realize I’m playing the game I’ve been playing since I was eight.”
For the 5’8” tailback who had to start his dream at a junior college, you can understand the bewilderment. Now another new beginning and an opportunity to make an impact as the back-up tailback, something the Steelers searched for and never found in 2021.