Pittsburgh Steelers second-year running back Jaylen Warren is on quite a heater the last three weeks.
All he continues to do is put together career-best days week after week.
That continued Sunday on the road against the Cleveland Browns. Though the Steelers fell 13-10 in a rather ugly, frustrating showing to a short-handed Browns team, Warren was far and away the best player on the field for the Black and Gold, a lone bright spot on a day that was rather dark all around.
In the loss, Warren set a new career-high with 129 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Yep, you read that right: nine carries. Along with his dominance on the ground, Warren had three catches for 16 yards. He was the Steelers’ offense on Sunday. And yet, he touched the ball just 12 times.
Warren didn’t receive his first carry until the 14:08 mark of the second quarter, gaining three yards. Then, he went on his heater.
On a 2nd and 1 from the Steelers’ 37-yard line, Warren picked up 11 yards on his patented physical run, refusing to go down on first contact.
Great spin move in the hole to force linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to miss, turning it into a nice run. After that though, that’s where Warren does his best work.
He gives Cleveland cornerback Denzel Ward the business, refusing to go down easily or quietly, setting the tone on the day.
After that run though, Warren touched the football just one more time in the first half, gaining five yards on a run off right end. At the half, Warren had 19 yards on three carries.
Then, the fireworks came in the second half.
Second play from scrimmage to open up the half, Warren took the quick toss, broke a tackle in the hole and then ran to daylight, winding up in the end zone 74 yards later, making it a 10-7 game.
This is a good play design and call from offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Good job of getting the motion pre-snap from Calvin Austin III, giving Cleveland defense something to be concerned with, holding the linebackers just enough.
The play also gets rookie right tackle Broderick Jones out in front, allowing him to clean out Denzel Ward on the perimeter. Take a look at the job that Mason Cole does at center, too, climbing to the second level to get a hat on a linebacker, taking him out of the play.
Warren makes the run, though, forcing cornerback Greg Newsome II to miss in the hole. After that, it’s off to the races for Warren. A triple-explosive play for the Steelers’ offense, and it winds up in the end zone.
A thing of beauty.
That was the momentum-changing play the Steelers needed offensively, and it came from the guy who has provided that all season.
After his 74-yard touchdown though, Warren touched the football just five times.
Fortunately for him and the Steelers, those five touches were largely impactful.
Facing a 2nd and 20 after an ineligible player downfield on a screen pass to Warren one play earlier, the Steelers running back picked up a nice chunk of yardage to make it a manageable third down.
Warren just hits the hole with such speed that he really threatens defenses and puts them on their heels. He’s a decisive, one-cut runner, one who knows how to get north in a hurry. When he gets north, he’s very difficult to bring down individually.
The Browns really had their hands full with Warren in the run game all day long.
The 8-yard carry above on the 2nd and 20 came at the 6:36 mark of the third quarter. Warren didn’t touch the football again until the 14:50 mark of the fourth quarter. He did a lot of damage in the final quarter, too.
Facing a 3rd and 13 with the Steelers trailing by a field goal, Pittsburgh turned to Warren again, this time in the passing game. The second-year running back did what he does best: make something happen.
Nice design here again by Canada and Pittsburgh, utilizing Warren as the motion man to identify man coverage with safety Grant Delpit on Warren and then taking advantage with the screen.
Cole and left guard Isaac Seumalo get out in front of Warren, and he does a nice job of getting north in a hurry while making sure he’s patient enough to set up his blocks. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. That’s what happened on the play as Warren played it perfectly, getting past the sticks.
That play kept the drive alive, setting up some impressive runs from Warren after that.
On a 2nd and 9 from near midfield, Warren submitted his latest run for Good Morning Football’s “Angry Runs” segment, tossing a Browns defender to the turf while gaining 21 yards on the run.
Tight end Pat Freiermuth gets blown up on the play and walked into the backfield, but Warren has the elusiveness to avoid the defender in the backfield, cut inside and then get north again. Once he does that, he also steps out of a tackle attempt and then finds green grass.
Instead of going out of bounds or taking what he’s gained already and going down, Warren dishes out punishment. Tossing safety Rodney McLeod like a rag doll before finishing the run with force, he gives McLeod the business at the end of the run, too, as he tries to get back up.
Such an impressive run from Warren, another one in an impressive season for the second-year pro.
On his final carry of the game, Warren ripped off a 12-yard run on the very next play, eventually helping the Steelers tie the game at 10 after a 28-yard field goal from Chris Boswell.
After that, Warren touched the ball just two more times. The Steelers never scored another point, never even got into field goal range, and ultimately lost the game.
On a day in which he was the hot hand, Warren deserved far more than 12 touches. Yet, head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t want to hear about it after the game, stating that the he wasn’t going to second-guess play calls or usage. Maybe he should, because Warren was clearly the best player offensively on a day in which Pittsburgh generated just 239 yards of offense and 10 points.
Using Warren a bit more might have led to a win on the road.