By Teresa Varley
When the Steelers placed tackle Marvel Smith on injured reserve near the end of the 2008 season and signed tackle Jason Capizzi, he had no idea he just came back to a team that would be headed to the Super Bowl.
Capizzi was on the St. Louis Rams practice squad at the time, sitting and waiting since late October on a team that wasn't headed anywhere in the post-season.
Then in December Smith, who had missed the previous 10 games, was placed on IR. And it was another opportunity for Capizzi to make it on his hometown team.
Capizzi, who played at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is from Gibsonia, Pa., was originally signed by the Steelers as a rookie free agent in 2007. He was released prior to the start of the season and then spent time on the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Bucs and Kansas City Chiefs practice squads, before being signed to the Steelers 53-man roster prior to their AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
During the 2008 off-season Capizzi suffered a stress fracture in his foot, ending any chance he had at winning a spot on the roster and was eventually released during training camp.
This year, he is hoping that the third time is a charm. Capizzi, 6-9, 330, got an early jump on working out when he started coming to the practice facility before the offseason workouts even began. He is working out daily while making sure he paces himself to stay healthy.
"For us younger guys that didn't play as much as the veterans did, it's an opportunity for us to come in and get a lot of undivided attention," said Capizzi. "It's something good. You have to watch and not go into it too hard. That's something I did last year and got hurt. You take your time, ease into it and get it ready to go. We are going to be here four months so we understand it's a process."
After being on the roster but inactive for the post-season last year, Capizzi is hoping this year he finally gets his chance to get out on the field.
"I want to be a contributor," said Capizzi. "I don't want to be on the sidelines in shorts and a t-shirt rooting for my team. I want to be out there in uniform and if my name is called, let's go, go out there and help and protect Ben (Roethlisberger) any way I can, whether it's right or left tackle. I can do both and just help my team win games."
The Steelers did apply the franchise tag on tackle Max Starks this year and recently re-signed tackle Trai Essex. But Smith is not expected to be back and Capizzi still feels good about fighting for that roster spot.
"I hope that I have shown enough in my film and preparation that they know I can get the job done," said Capizzi. "I just have to keep working and get better every day."
Capizzi was raised a Steelers fan, going to games as a kid with his dad. He doesn't think being a hometown kid brings more pressure, but it does bring excitement.
"Its more satisfaction when it does work out because my family is here and they get to experience this with me," said Capizzi. "It's not pressure. The game is pressure enough. You just want to out there and perform well and do well."
Being a hometown guy Capizzi has been trying to get out in the community as well, recently taking part in the Sixth Annual Reading Is FUNdamental Pittsburgh Dr. Seuss/Read Across America Day at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Capizzi read "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut," and enjoyed the experience.
"Reading a book is kind of different. It's a good program," said Capizzi. "I felt like a first grade school teacher, holding the book about and showing the pictures and reading it while rhyming like Dr. Seuss does it. You have to get into the flow of it. After the first few pages I was fine.
"It's always good to give back to the community that helped you when you were a child. It's very special to me to help out the City of Pittsburgh. It's a great city and close to my heart."