Much like this 12 months’s draft, one amongst the NFL’s worst-saved secrets within the 2008 draft modified into the Steelers’ desire to draft a running aid within the first spherical. What is a shock modified into the running aid the Steelers almost, nevertheless within the extinguish did now not defend with the 23rd overall defend.
Chris Johnson, who bolstered his draft stock after running a 4.24 within the 40-yard trot at that 12 months’s combine, had a pre-draft hiss over with in Pittsburgh. Johnson wasn’t obvious why he modified into visiting the Steelers, as they already had two-time Knowledgeable Bowler Willie Parker. But taking a peek aid, Johnson believes that Pittsburgh modified into seriously brooding about drafting him.
“Now that I return and think it, I judge they had been doubtlessly going to defend me,” Johnson no longer too long ago acknowledged on the “All Things Covered” podcast with Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden. “They took Mendenhall as a replace. They did now not defend me because I could perhaps per chance no longer defend the MRI on the debate over with.”
The Steelers as a replace chosen aged Illinois running aid Rashard Mendenhall with the 23rd defend. Johnson, following a stellar remaining season at East Carolina, modified into taken by the Titans with the following defend. Mendenhall played in correct four games as a rookie sooner than an hurt prematurely ended his season. The Steelers obtained that 12 months’s Indispensable Bowl regardless of finishing 23rd within the league in rushing. Johnson obtained NFL Offensive Rookie of the 12 months honors after rushing for 1,228 yards and 9 touchdowns whereas helping lead the Titans to a 13-3 narrative. The following season, he grew to turn into entirely the sixth player in league historical past to flee for more than 2,000 yards.
Going aid to his pre-draft hiss over with with Pittsburgh, Johnson acknowledged that the Steelers wished to search an hurt he sustained in college. Johnson — who reluctantly underwent an MRI at some level of the combine — defined to Mike Tomlin and the leisure of the Steelers workers that he modified into claustrophobic and that the entirely system to rep him to defend an MRI modified into to “attach me to sleep.” After roughly 20 minutes (at some level of which Johnson referred to as his agent to replace him on the role), Tomlin re-entered the meeting room.
“We if fact be told desire you to defend the MRI,” Johnson recalled Tomlin telling him, “nevertheless Whereas that you can no longer defend it, we’ll must ship you dwelling. We if fact be told can not rep enterprise with you.”
The Steelers then despatched Johnson dwelling, a determination that he clean thinks about.
“I modified into speculated to be a Steeler,” he acknowledged. “I rep to Pittsburgh. They talked to me; I talked to your complete coaches. Tomlin, they luxuriate in me, this and that.”
Johnson would were the correct alternative for Parker, one other rapid running aid who modified into never the same after suffering a severe leg hurt slack within the 2007 season. McFadden, a member of every and every of the Steelers Indispensable Bowl championship teams at some level of the 2000s, feels that he and his teammates would have obtained diagram more hardware had Johnson been drafted by Pittsburgh.
“We felt admire we’d have obtained two more rings,” McFadden acknowledged. “If we had Chris Johnson, we surely — worst-case role — would have gotten two more rings. Palms down.”
“It would possibly per chance well were crazy,” Johnson acknowledged when severe about what would have came about had the Steelers drafted him. “I repeatedly felt some originate of diagram about Pittsburgh thanks to that role. I have admire it could were handled differently. I will gaze if I modified into acting cocky. … They must always clean have handled the role differently.”
Whereas they’d per chance per chance were better together, each and every the Steelers and Johnson loved a success runs within the years after the 2008 draft. Pittsburgh regarded in two of the following three Indispensable Bowls and in 2013 chosen the franchise’s next premier running aid in Le’Veon Bell. Johnson would trot for more than 1,000 yards in every of his first six seasons whereas turning into one amongst the league’s premier backs. McFadden tabbed Johnson as “one amongst the most feared and electrifying avid gamers to ever play the game.”
Johnson hopes that his profession will in some unspecified time in the future be infamous two hours west from Pittsburgh in Canton, Ohio, when he’s eligible for induction into the Knowledgeable Football Hall of Fame. Johnson, who final played in 2017, will be eligible in 2023.
“I judge I’m the correct dwelling trot hitter ever within the historical past of the game,” acknowledged Johnson, whose seven runs for more than 75 yards are the most in league historical past. “I judge I’m [a Hall of Famer], nevertheless I’m going away it as much as [the voters]. They accomplish no longer admire when avid gamers are cocky and take a look at and name their stats after they’re attempting to abolish the Hall of Fame … nevertheless every on occasion you surely could perhaps must hiss up so they know.”