Ranking every Steelers first-round draft pick of the Mike Tomlin era

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90)
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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11. Rashard Mendenhall, 2008 first-round pick

At this point, I would argue that we are shifting out of the conventional draft busts and moving more into just poor picks. These players weren’t monumental busts, but they didn’t justify their first-round billing.

Leading off the charge is Rashard Mendenhall. The Steelers invested their top pick in Mendenhall during the 2008 draft with the hopes that he would reinvent their power running game during the end of Willie Parker's tenure with the team.

Mendenhall had a slow start to his college career, but he exploded onto the scene his junior year with nearly 2000 total yards and 19 touchdowns. He followed that up with an impressive combine, and he looked like a player that could have some burst and power given his size and build.

While he had a few good seasons for the Steelers, Mendenhall never became a true top back. He struggled with injuries and never overcame a less-than-ideal offensive line. He did have a pair of 1000 seasons, but that was more due to his workload and less due to Mendenhall’s actual ability as a runner.

He played out his contract with the Steelers and had one more season left in him in Arizona. He wasn’t effective there either, and his tenure in the league ended after that. I’m very much against taking running backs in the first round, and Mendenhall is further proof that top picks on backs are wasted picks.

2008 is seen as one of the worst Steelers drafts in recent history. While Mendenhall wasn’t a complete failure like the other names listed so far, he certainly didn’t save the class he was in. He never became more than an average plodder, and the team certainly missed when they picked him in the first round.