Jaylen Warren walked into the Steelers locker room for the first time last May an undrafted rookie who was wide-eyed and slightly overwhelmed.
When he left following the 2022 season, it was a completely different story.
Warren went from a player nobody knew what to expect from, if anything, to a major contributor on offense and special teams.
"I've actually seen a lot of development as far as adapting to a new lifestyle, understanding what was needed throughout a long season," said Warren, the running back from Oklahoma State. "It was the longest season of my life. I developed a lot more than I anticipated. Whether that meant making a routine for myself, working on and understanding what my body really needs, what my mind needs. I developed a lot in those areas.
"I also grew a lot understanding defenses more. What they bring in certain situations, understanding how they play. I understood what the defense does in college, but in the NFL it's your job. They pick up on all the little tendencies. Film was a huge thing. Film kind of took over the role of going to classes on the NFL level."
Warren finished the 2022 season with 77 carries for 379 yards, a 4.9-yard average, and one touchdown in 16 games working as Najee Harris' backup. He added 28 receptions for 214 yards, a 7.6-yard average.
He had one of his best games of the season in Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens, with career highs of 12 carries for 76 yards.
"It was a huge blessing to play as much as I did," said Warren. "It was a dream come true. Honestly, I never viewed myself as someone who would play a huge role on an NFL team. I came in, doing what I could, knowing if I got the RB2 job it was just taking blows off of Najee.
"As time went on, they started trusting me more and putting me in those critical situations and that meant a lot to me that they can trust me in those situations."
That trust came from multiple things, including his ability to produce, his decision-making, and being a threat out of the backfield for the passing game.
It all wouldn't have been possible without him putting in the work, knowing that nothing was being handed to him, but everything had to be earned.
"I worked the same every week no matter what the situation," said Warren. "I just enjoy playing football. Coming in every day with your teammates and working. Last year was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it a lot. I had a blast."
One of the things Warren truly enjoyed was the way the team turned the season around, going from a 2-6 team to a 9-8 team. Sure, he didn't like what got them to the point where the turnaround was needed, but he loved the resiliency that was shown.
"It showed the strong brotherhood of the team," said Warren. "It showed the dedication we have to each other, how dedicated we are to the program and we how bought into the culture.
"Nobody wanted to start 2-6. We knew that and we resolved it after the bye. I think it was just everybody coming into the building after a loss knowing that isn't a good feeling. We wanted to end that. Nobody likes losing. We just started to play for each other and nothing else. Just play for your brothers on the field."
The focus for Warren now is doing everything he can to prepare for the 2023 season. He wants to come back stronger, more prepared and ready to roll in his second season.
"I'm going to focus on perfecting the little things in my game," said Warren. "Just working hard. I'm going to work hard on my route running, all of that. There isn't anything I don't want to work on."