Mendenhall transforms from Illini to Steeler

By Wes Anderson

CHICAGO — It took a little longer than expected, but Rashard Mendenhall eventually found his place in the National Football League.

After the former Illinois running back was passed over by many teams in need of backfield depth, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him with the 23rd overall pick in Saturday’s first round of the NFL Draft.

Mendenhall, who held a private draft party in the “Foundation Room” of Chicago’s House of Blues, could do nothing but wait as teams passed over him.

Some players ranked behind Mendenhall by draft experts were chosen earlier in the draft. The Carolina Panthers selected running back Jonathan Stewart of Oregon with the 13th pick, and the Dallas Cowboys used the 22nd pick to choose Arkansas’ Felix Jones instead of Mendenhall.

The Chicago Bears, Mendenhall’s hometown team, chose to bolster their offensive line rather than select a running back and drafted Vanderbilt left tackle Chris Williams with the 14th overall pick.

Finally, Pittsburgh came calling.

Mendenhall now joins fellow first-round picks Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes in the steel city. The Steelers were 10-6 last year under then-rookie head coach Mike Tomlin.

Check out Monday’s edition of The Daily Illini for the complete story.