The thinking was that one of the third or fourth-round prospects could fill in for Le'Veon Bell for a one or two-game suspension on the way to a fulfilling career as Bell's backup.
But the Steelers came back from Indianapolis and signed veteran free-agent DeAngelo Williams, and then they learned that Bell is suspended for three games for DUI (marijuana) and possession of marijuana.
Since then, the Steelers' interest in this deep crop of running backs seems to have waned. Of the 22 prospects who've visited the South Side offices thus far, none were running backs.
Along with Bell and Williams, the Steelers appear intent on giving last year's third-round pick, Dri Archer, a long and complete look.
That seemed apparent in the playoffs when Archer -- who had carried only 10 times (40 yards) and caught only seven passes (23 yards) during the regular season -- was given 31 snaps, or 10 more than the next back, Josh Harris, and 11 more than the other back, Ben Tate.
After 10 months of work with the team, Archer was trusted to be on the field for the all-important third downs in a playoff game, so there's little doubt that Mike Tomlin is committed to him, even after a poor rookie season.
That fills the first three spots in the Steelers' backfield, and the fifth belongs to fullback/H-back Will Johnson.
The open spot, the fourth halfback spot, belongs to Harris, a thick, fast, athletic and undrafted rookie last year who could go back to the practice squad if the Steelers find a quality late-rounder in this draft.
It may not be quite as fun as digging for a Round 3-4 back to start the opener, but there will be some quality runners who slide past the fourth round.
While backs such as Jeremy Langford -- who backed up Bell at Michigan State -- seem to make sense in Pittsburgh, the Steelers lack an inside power runner and there could be a few of those available in the second half of the draft.
Like Buck Allen, who not only calls himself "very unique" but has uniquely old-school taste.
"My favorite running back is Jerome Bettis," the 6-0 1/2, 221-pound Allen said at the Combine. "I grew up a Steelers fan."
Allen grew up in Tallahassee, Fla., and then spent four years at USC. As a redshirt junior last season, Allen rushed for 1,489 yards (5.4 ypc.) and caught 41 passes.
"I have great hands, and I can be a workhorse for a team," Allen said. "You’re going to have to drag me off the field because I love the game of football."
Not as big, but nearly as powerful and passionate about the game is Mississippi State's Josh Robinson, a 5-8, 217-pounder who's built in the bowling-ball fashion of Maurice Jones-Drew, but an inch taller and seven pounds heavier.
Robinson was raised by his grandmother, who died when Josh was 12. He reportedly lived out of a car at times while being raised by a community of the family's friends. Robinson has not only survived, but thrived as one of the emotional leaders at Mississippi State, where he rushed for 1,203 yards (6.2 ypc.) in the SEC last year and caught 28 passes.
The only back known to have drawn interest from the Steelers lately is another big back, Matt Jones, a 6-2 1/2, 231-pounder who had dinner with Tomlin prior to Florida's pro day and could be had late in the draft.
5. Tevin Coleman 5-11 1/2, 206, Indiana
STEELERS' VALUE BOARD
Fifth Round -- Buck Allen, USC; Josh Robinson, Mississippi State.