The Pittsburgh Steelers training camp continued on Monday, and it was time for pads. One of the more entertaining drills every year is the “backs on backers” session, in which running backs are matched up against linebackers. The drill is meant for focusing on the blocking ability of the team’s running backs, an underrated trait that isn’t talked about enough. On the flip side, linebackers show their ability to be able to evade blockers when rushing the quarterback.
From Monday’s session, many guys did well. According to Josh Rowntree of 93.7 The Fan, one particular player emerged from the pack as a winner of the drill.
Rookie RB Jaylen Warren’s doing well in pass blocking.
— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) August 1, 2022
Rookie Jaylen Warren is a name to watch the rest of training camp. After winning his first few reps, head coach Mike Tomlin gave him a challenge to face one of the team’s primary linebackers in Robert Spillane. Warren seemingly didn’t back down, a trait that coaches always love to see. With recent signee Jeremy McNichols sitting out Monday, Warren was an immediate beneficiary. At Oklahoma State, the undrafted free agent was a productive power back in the Big 12.
These are ways for a guy like Warren to sneak onto the 53-man roster. While it’s unlikely for him to move up the depth chart and see snaps at running back, performing in these drills is crucial for his status. Being a reliable blocker is crucial out of a depth guy like Warren and others. Of course, special teams is the most important trait for fringe roster players, and it remains to be seen if he can stand out there. Najee Harris displayed his added pounds of muscle, as he went toe-to-toe with Spillane as well.
The same can be said for other positions, especially linebacker. A guy like seventh-round rookie Mark Robinson has stood out in training camp so far. He did well in this drill as well, and his coverage last week was encouraging on multiple levels. If he continues to perform well, it’ll be hard to keep a guy like Ulysses Gilbert III over Robinson.
Along with Robinson and Warren, Robert Spillane was the other notable winner of Monday’s drill. He’s always been known for his physicality, and that continued in the sessions. So far in Latrobe, Spillane has earned an even split of first-team snaps at inside linebacker, along with Myles Jack and Devin Bush. Jack is virtually locked into one of the two starting spots on the inside, especially after his hefty contract this off-season. His speed has been on full display in Latrobe so far as well, as the defense has dominated the offense. Again, it’s just a few days into training camp, but it seems like Spillane and Bush are quietly in a full-on battle for the starting spot alongside Jack.
Warren’s success on the day continued into 11-on-11 drills, as mentioned by another Steelers writer in Dave Lolley. Mataeo Durant, also an undrafted free agent, performed well in that drill as well. Perhaps one of those guys can unseat either Benny Snell Jr. or Anthony McFarland Jr. on the 53-man roster this season. Even if Durant and Warren miss out on the Week 1 roster, they are likely practice squad candidates.
Who are your winners from training camp so far? Do you give Warren (or Durant) any shot at making the 53-man roster? Does Mark Robinson have a chance, despite being seventh-rounder? Yinz, let us know your reactions from training camp so far!
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