Steelers should deploy a two-headed rushing attack moving forward

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren (30) runs with the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren (30) runs with the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers should think about getting both running backs in the lineup for better results on the ground. Here’s why a two-back system must be considered.

Pittsburgh Steelers undrafted rookie running back out of Oklahoma State, Jaylen Warren, has shown promise, both in the preseason and through the first seven weeks of the 2022 season. He’s accumulated 103 yards on 23 carries, as well as 63 yards on nine receptions — not bad for a rookie playing behind Najee Harris, who has dominated touches in the backfield so far this season.

Unfortunately, Harris has had a slow start to his season with 329 yards on 100 carries, good for just 3.2 yards per carry, and only one touchdown through Week 7. The team and fans expected more after Harris’ stellar 2021 campaign.

A two-back system has worked for others

In recent years, teams have had success with a two-running-back system. We saw that with the Cleveland Browns n the 2020 season with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Those guys combined for 1,908 yards and 18 touchdowns, helping lead the Browns to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance.

Trust me, I’m not saying that Harris and Warren would stack up numbers like that, but I do think with the right schemes in place it might give the offense some much-needed diversity and change to include Warren more in the offense.

Firing Matt Canada is not the answer yet, especially for Kenny Pickett’s sake. However, I do think that implementing some changes would add diversity to this offense, which could do more good than harm for an offense that can’t get much worse.

With the team at 2-5 and heading into a bye week after facing the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday, I don’t see why this shouldn’t at least be on the table for Canada. When this system is used as we’ve seen in the past, it takes the pressure off not just the quarterback, but also limits the wear and tear on the backs physically.

The Carolina Panthers used it successfully for some years with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, with the height of that success coming in 2009, when “Double Trouble” had a record-breaking season.

We all remember in 2015 when Williams came to Pittsburgh. People thought he was past his prime, yet that year he shocked everyone by rushing for 907 yards with 11 touchdowns. That was at least somewhat thanks to his body not taking a beating while in Carolina with the two-back system.

Why the Steelers should use both running backs

Harris is a 6-foot-1, 232-pound running back that has amazing cut moves and great speed, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Warren is a 5-foot-8, 215-pound, head-down, coming-at-you running back with great speed who can also catch the ball out of the backfield. They both have different styles that can be effective; why not capitalize on their differences and disrupt defenses?

During a press conference Thursday at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Canada talked about getting bigger plays in the run game, something this offense has struggled with,

“Our run game efficiency is coming but it’s not enough,” Canada admitted. “It’s still in those threes instead of those 4.5 or five-yard averages because we got to get a few more of those bigger plays.”

The offense is struggling to get chunk plays and when Jaylen does get the ball, his average yards per carry is 4.5 whereas Najee is at 3.3 yards per carry.

I’d love to see a return of an effective, efficient run game. Shake it up and try to build some excitement for the fans and spark the offense all at the same time.

We are almost at the midway point of what looks like a lost season. Would it be so bad to implement something that diversifies this offense? A lifelong Steelers fan, my mother always likes to say, “there’s no time like the present.”

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If Canada wants to save face now – and maybe his job later — something like this could put him in good graces if it works.