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Taking a running back in the third round wouldn't be the weirdest option for the Steelers

Deja vu all over again? Maybe. Don't be too surprised if the Steelers pick a running back in the 3rd. The available talent might be too much to resist.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I'm on record predicting that the shape of the Board will move the Steelers to pick a pass rusher in the 1st round and a corner in the 2nd. A backup Tight End looked like a good possibility for the Third, but as I get to know the Board a little better I've started leaning toward a Running Back instead.

Hear me out before you go nuts. I know the arguments and can make them myself:

Running Back? Isn't that well down the list of priorities? Leveon Bell had a fabulous year. He was the team MVP for cryin' out loud! and it was only his second in the league. There's a lot of tread left on those tires. We could use a backup, sure. We saw the importance of that in the Wild Card game. But a 3rd Round pick on a backup? Surely there are bigger needs, like TE, depth on the D-line, or even a double-dip at OLB or CB...

All very true. But it's not need or even want that drives this. I foresee a very real chance that a quality, #1 level running back could fall all the way to the Steelers pick at 3:23. And I'd take T.J. Yeldon, Jay Ajayi, or the limping Todd Gurley at that point over any Tight End with a snowball's chance of being on the Board at that spot.

I hear you:

Sure. I'd take WR Amari Cooper or QB Jameis Winston in the 3rd too. You're talking up a pipe dream here.

Maybe not.

We all know how undervalued the running back position has been in the past few years of the draft. No running back went in the 1st Round in either 2013 or 2014. How strange is that? The last time it happened before the new CBA was 1963! Bell himself went in the 2nd, and had been projected to go as late as the 3rd.  So you have to expect the recent trend to continue, with very talented young men falling way further in the draft than any sane viewer would expect.

Which brings me to the long-delayed point of this article. There are a lot of immensely talented Running Backs in this draft. I count as many as 9 - nine! - who could have legitimately dreamed of being a 1st-Round pick back in the glory days of 1980 or '81. Let's have a look at the list:

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin - 6'1", 207 lbs. Gordon's expected to be the guy who will break the 1st-Round drought on RB's. This scouting report from Sports Illustrated compares him to Jamaal Charles, and this November scouting report from Bucky Brooks at the NFL Network to a more complete and uninjured Darren McFadden. Melvin Gordon is the one guy I feel safe in saying cannot fall all the way to 3:23.

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia - 6'1", 226 lbs. Gurley was considered the best running back in the country, even better than Melvin Gordon, until he tore an ACL in November and the tobacco in that pipe took on a different flavor. He's sort of like a Leveon Bell with better top-end speed: a big, strong, and yet surprisingly shifty runner with good hands out of the backfield and the size to be an excellent protector in the pocket. This is a nice scouting report if you want more detail, and this is an October video scouting report from Bucky Brooks at the NFL Network will give you the basic story. Todd Gurley is the complete package and before the knee injury would have gone off the Board in the mid- to late part of the 1st Round. With the knee he'll probably slide out of the 1st. The question is, how far?

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska - 5'9", 195 lbs. He's short but not small, runs hard between the tackles as well as outside, and imho will have a great career if he's allowed to share carries with another good back. Like a Leveon Bell, for example. Like every other one you'll find, this scouting report projects Abdullah as a 3-down workhorse for whatever team is lucky enough to get him. The CBS scouting report compares him to "a better version of Andre Ellington [with] the skill-set to have a Warrick Dunn-type career," and notes that he's an exceptional human being on top of everything else. This scouting report adds that he's return-capable. The only drawback is that he's a total unknown at blocking and lacks the ideal size to excel in that capacity. On the other hand, he's definitely the sort of player who will devote himself to learning that part of job as well as everything else he'll need to be a complete pro. Warrick may be an apt analogy for Ameer when all is said and Dunn.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana - 6'0", 210 lbs. Want a summary description you'd like to have attached to your name? The CBS scouting report describes Tevin Coleman as "a mix of Darren McFadden and Demarco Murray." I'm sold. Here is a typically high-quality scouting report from Football Insiders if you want more detail.

Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina - 5'9", 223 lbs. Mike Davis is a one-cut, downhill runner with great acceleration, a bowling ball body to match, and enough of that lofty character to ease South Carolina fans out of mourning for their tragically injured hero Marcus Lattimore. Davis needs to work on his blocking a bit, though with that size he should be more than capable of doing so, but has a variety of good, shifty moves to go with his size-and-speed combo, and comes with the bonus of fantastic hands out of the backfield. Comparisons range from "a gigantic Darren Sproles" to "Carlos Hyde or Frank Gore."

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami - 5'9", 206 lbs. A little smaller than you'd put down in a job listing, but plenty big and waaaaay shifty enough to avoid the big hits. Honest and mainstream experts like Rob Rang at CBS Sports have compared him to LeSean McCoy. The Walter Football scouting report went with Giovani Bernard instead.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama - 6'2", 221 lbs. Yeldon is the kid you probably know already from all the Alabama games on TV. Talent just bursts off him. You can't teach 6'2" with that kind of speed and shiftiness. If I knew more about his internals I would compare him to Leveon Bell without any irony. There are some flaws - pundits talk about running too high, and he's shown signs of suffering from the famous Alabama Syndrome of losing tread off the tires in college - but the picture of what might be is indelible: Leveon Bell and TJ Yeldon lined up behind Big Ben and a defense trying to wonder who might get the run, which direction the swing pass will go, or whether both will just stay back in max-protection or act as the outlet... It's enough to make a Steelers fan giggle with glee.

Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State - 6'0", 216 lbs. As described by the folks at CBS, Jay Ajayi offers nimble feet, tricky moves, excellent speed and acceleration, and surprising power; in short, everything you want in a running back except a reputation for fumbleitis as inopportune moments. But it's also clear that he has some flaws in his running style (like getting ahead of blockers) that can be fixed with good coaching, and his ball security issues may be solvable in the same way. I seem to remember Adrian Peterson getting hit with that criticism, and developing his famous hand strength as a response. This typically excellent scouting report from Football Insiders is the place to start your research. This scouting report comes from a Patriots website may also help. This NFL article is less a scouting report than a summary news piece, but is notable because it mentions several things the Steelers would love such as "between the tackles running, paired with "outstanding vision, pitter-pat, [] toughness ... [and] home-run speed and acceleration."

Javorius "Buck" Allen, RB, USC - 6'1", 220 lbs. I rarely link to CBS because I use it so often that basically every player would require the reference. In this case, however, there is a video scouting report that's kind of fun. He and Jay Ajayi are very hard to distinguish on paper due to overlaps in size, accomplishments, running style, receiving skills, and potential. This October scouting report/article is notable because it compares Allen to Bishop Sankey based on a quote from Allen's position coach - who happened to be Sankey's teacher last year.

Every one of those players could have dreamed of 1st Round status in the old days, and deserves to go by the end of the 2nd Round even in 2015. But with so many to choose from would it really be that strange if one or two of them fell well into the 3rd?

On top of those, there are several running backs who could have legitimately dreamed of being a 2nd Rounder back in those far-flung glory days and really ought to be available to the Steelers in Round 3 (or maybe even Round 4) of this year's draft:

David Cobb, RB, Minnesota - 5'11", 229 lbs. A big, strong, reliable, and productive downhill back who would be ranked much higher if he had top end speed or just a few more shifty moves. He may well be better than his already-admirable numbers suggest, however, because it would take a generous man to describe Minnesota's offensive line as "below the line "during Cobb's career. A more realistic appraisal would use a number of harsher words. Make a note to watch him at the Combine. David Cobb's stock could easily shoot up if he puts up good numbers in the "niftiness" tests like the 3-cone drill and/or excels in the receiving tests. This scouting report sums up the popular opinion, whis thorough scouting report from our sister site for the Jets gives a Day 3 grade after saying that Cobb "compares favorably to Leveon Bell."

Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State - 6'1", 208 lbs. The successor to Leveon Bell at Michigan State, Langford has a similar skill set that's just a notch below the man he was following. He's a big, strong bruiser who can run people over when he wants to but also has enough wiggle to make people miss and great hands out of the backfield. He doesn't have Bell's top end speed, but for a backup he's just about everything you could ask for.

The Steelers don't have to grab a running back in the 3rd to be sure of getting a quality backup for Leveon Bell. There are probably another half-dozen or so quality options that should be available well into 5-7 range, and the free agency market is downright glutted with veterans. In some ways it might be even better if the "appropriate" thing happened and all those players went off the Board in a giant run-on-RB's during the 2nd Round. Other talented prospects at higher-priority positions, such as the better-rated Tight Ends like Heuerman and Koyack, would be forced downward into Pittsburgh's waiting hands.

But it wouldn't take much for that run to get delayed. It may be a pipedream to imagine one of those guys splitting time in the backfield with Pittsburgh's 2015 MVP, but it's a pipe that's filled with plain old tobacco. No mind altering substances are required. Weirder things have happened.