Former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson could have been a Steeler and here’s a big reason why it didn’t happen

Much like this 12 months’s draft, one of many NFL’s worst-kept secrets and techniques within the 2008 draft was the Steelers‘ need to draft a operating again within the first spherical. What is a shock was the operating again the Steelers virtually, however in the end didn’t choose with the twenty third total decide. 

Chris Johnson, who bolstered his draft inventory after operating a 4.24 within the 40-yard sprint at that 12 months’s mix, had a pre-draft go to in Pittsburgh. Johnson wasn’t positive why he was visiting the Steelers, as they already had two-time Pro Bowler Willie Parker. However wanting again, Johnson believes that Pittsburgh was severely contemplating drafting him. 

“Now that I’m going again and give it some thought, I believe they have been in all probability going to take me,” Johnson not too long ago stated on the “All Things Covered” 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 operating again Rashard Mendenhall with the twenty third decide. Johnson, following a stellar last season at East Carolina, was taken by the Titans with the subsequent decide. Mendenhall performed in simply 4 video games as a rookie earlier than an harm prematurely ended his season. The Steelers received that 12 months’s Super Bowl regardless of ending twenty third within the league in speeding. Johnson received NFL Offensive Rookie of the 12 months honors after speeding for 1,228 yards and 9 touchdowns whereas serving to lead the Titans to a 13-3 document. The next season, he turned 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 harm he sustained in school. Johnson — who reluctantly underwent an MRI through the mix — defined to Mike Tomlin and the remainder of the Steelers employees 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 residence. We actually cannot do enterprise with you.”

The Steelers then despatched Johnson residence, a call that he nonetheless thinks about. 

“I used to be speculated 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 substitute for Parker, one other speedy operating again who was by no means the identical after struggling a critical leg harm 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 received much more {hardware} had Johnson been drafted by Pittsburgh. 

“We felt like we might have received two extra rings,” McFadden stated. “If we had Chris Johnson, we positively — worst-case state of affairs — would have gotten two extra rings. Fingers down.”

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

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 operating 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 “some of the feared and electrifying gamers to ever play the sport.” 

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

“I believe I am the perfect residence run hitter ever within the historical past of the sport,” stated Johnson, whose seven runs for greater than 75 yards are essentially 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 typically you have to communicate up so that they know.” | Former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson might have been a Steeler and this is an enormous cause why it did not occur


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