The Pittsburgh Steelers finished 16th in rushing yards per game last season in what was more or less an average running game compared to their peers. For Kenny Pickett to ascend in year two he’ll need a sufficient ground game as part of a balanced offensive attack. Not much has changed when it comes to the Steelers' depth chart, but a shift in the volume of carries could prove to be an impactful choice for fantasy football managers.
Steelers RB depth chart
Early-down back: Najee Harris
Third-down back: Jaylen Warren
Goal-line back: Najee Harris
Change-of-pace back: Jaylen Warren
What has preseason usage told us about Steelers backfield?
Harris has only seen two carries through Pittsburgh’s two preseason games so far, while Warren has tallied four rushing attempts in that same time span. Meanwhile, Anthony McFarland Jr. has 12 carries including a team-high nine rushing attempts in the Steelers preseason Week 2 win against the Buffalo Bills. While there should be no debate as it pertains to Harris and Warren’s grasp on the RB1 and RB2 roles, McFarland’s usage throughout the preseason could highlight his preparedness to step up in case of injury.
How might RB touches in 2023 be distributed?
Harris led the Steelers in rushing attempts last season (277) with Warren in a distant second place (77). However, Steelers fans have been keen to note the quiet summer from Harris as there’s been little chatter about his performance through training camp. Perhaps it’s much ado about nothing, but if Pittsburgh hopes to keep Harris fresh for the entirety of the 17-game season, they’ll need to see an uptick in Warren’s carries.
Harris averaged 16.0 attempts per game while Warren averaged 4.8 carries per game. The former Crimson Tide product should remain the lead running back, but a strong summer from Warren could warrant consideration in added touches. I foresee Warren getting between seven and eight touches per game, which would put him outside of flex consideration but very much worth a roster spot as a handcuff for Harris.