The Pittsburgh Steelers placed offensive tackle Marvel Smith on injured reserve, and signed tackle Jason Capizzi from the Rams practice squad to replace him.
The Steelers had signed Capizzi as rookie free agent in 2007, and he spent time on their practice squad in 2007, as well as the practice squads of numerous other teams. Pittsburgh signed him to their active roster prior to the Jacksonville playoff game last January, but he did not play. Capizzi has been on the St. Louis Rams practice squad for much of the 2008 season.
End of the Line for Marvel Smith?
The speculation here and in other quarters is that Marvel Smith could have played his last game for the Steelers.
Smith was drafted in 2000 and quickly became a starter at right tackle. Within a short time he moved to left tackle, and became a Pro Bowler there in 2004.
However, back issues have bedeviled Smith for the last two years, and injuries also ruined a good portion of his 2003 season. Smith also finished the 2007 season on IR and underwent back surgery during the off season.
Smith left in the fourth quarter of this year's game against Jacksonville with what was described at the time was "cramps." It was soon determined that it was the back that was ailing Smith again, although the Steelers were adamant in insisting that this injury was distinct from the one that he suffered in 2007.
The Grass Isn't Always Greener on the Other Side (of free agency)
Despite the injury history, Smith entered the 2008 season as the Steelers only Pro Bowl caliber offensive lineman, and the Steelers reportedly did attempt to sign him to a long-term deal prior to the 2008 season as he is in the last year of his contract. Smith chose not to resign, opting to test the free agent waters in 2009.
Smith will still get the chance to test those waters next March, but it remains to be seen if the Steelers, or anyone else will have any interest.