Former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson might have been a Steeler and this is a giant motive why it did not occur


Much like this yr’s draft, one of many NFL’s worst-kept secrets and techniques within the 2008 draft was the Steelers‘ want to draft a working again within the first spherical. What is a shock was the working again the Steelers nearly, however in the end didn’t choose with the twenty third total decide. 

Chris Johnson, who bolstered his draft inventory after working a 4.24 within the 40-yard sprint at that yr’s mix, had a pre-draft go to in Pittsburgh. Johnson wasn’t certain why he was visiting the Steelers, as they already had two-time Professional Bowler Willie Parker. However trying again, Johnson believes that Pittsburgh was critically contemplating drafting him. 

“Now that I am going again and give it some thought, I believe they had been most likely going to take me,” Johnson just lately stated on the “All Issues Lined” podcast with Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden. “They took Mendenhall as an alternative. They did not take me as a result of I would not take the MRI on the go to.” 

The Steelers as an alternative chosen former Illinois working again Rashard Mendenhall with the twenty third decide. Johnson, following a stellar closing season at East Carolina, was taken by the Titans with the following decide. Mendenhall performed in simply 4 video games as a rookie earlier than an damage prematurely ended his season. The Steelers gained that yr’s Tremendous Bowl regardless of ending twenty third within the league in dashing. Johnson gained NFL Offensive Rookie of the 12 months honors after dashing for 1,228 yards and 9 touchdowns whereas serving to lead the Titans to a 13-3 report. The next season, he grew to become solely the sixth participant in league historical past to hurry for greater than 2,000 yards. 

Going again to his pre-draft go to with Pittsburgh, Johnson stated that the Steelers wished to look at an damage he sustained in school. Johnson — who reluctantly underwent an MRI through the mix — defined to Mike Tomlin and the remainder of the Steelers workers that he was claustrophobic and that the one technique to get him to take an MRI was to “put me to sleep.” After roughly 20 minutes (throughout which Johnson known as his agent to replace him on the state of affairs), Tomlin re-entered the assembly room. 

“We actually want you to take the MRI,” Johnson recalled Tomlin telling him, “however If you cannot take it, we’ll need to ship you dwelling. We actually cannot do enterprise with you.”

The Steelers then despatched Johnson dwelling, a choice that he nonetheless thinks about. 

“I used to be alleged to be a Steeler,” he stated. “I get to Pittsburgh. They talked to me; I talked to all of the coaches. Tomlin, they love me, this and that.”

Johnson would have been the best alternative for Parker, one other speedy working again who was by no means the identical after struggling a severe leg damage late within the 2007 season. McFadden, a member of each of the Steelers Tremendous Bowl championship groups through the 2000s, feels that he and his teammates would have gained much more {hardware} had Johnson been drafted by Pittsburgh. 

“We felt like we might have gained two extra rings,” McFadden stated. “If we had Chris Johnson, we positively — worst-case situation — would have gotten two extra rings. Palms down.”

“It might have been loopy,” Johnson stated when serious about what would have occurred had the Steelers drafted him. “I at all times felt some sort of means about Pittsburgh due to that state of affairs. I really feel prefer it might have been dealt with otherwise. I can see if I used to be appearing cocky. … They need to have dealt with the state of affairs otherwise.” 

Whereas they might have been higher collectively, each the Steelers and Johnson loved profitable runs within the years after the 2008 draft. Pittsburgh appeared in two of the following three Tremendous Bowls and in 2013 chosen the franchise’s subsequent premier working again in Le’Veon Bell. Johnson would run for greater than 1,000 yards in every of his first six seasons whereas turning into one of many league’s premier backs. McFadden tabbed Johnson as “probably the most feared and electrifying gamers to ever play the sport.” 

Johnson hopes that his profession will in the future be celebrated two hours west from Pittsburgh in Canton, Ohio, when he’s eligible for induction into the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame. Johnson, who final performed in 2017, will likely be eligible in 2023. 

“I believe I am the very best dwelling run hitter ever within the historical past of the sport,” stated Johnson, whose seven runs for greater than 75 yards are probably the most in league historical past. “I believe I am [a Hall of Famer], however I go away it as much as [the voters]. They do not like when gamers are cocky and attempt to title their stats after they’re making an attempt to make the Corridor of Fame … however generally you have to converse up so that they know.” 



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