Justin C. Strzelczyk, an offensive lineman who spent nearly a decade playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, died on Sept. 30 in an automobile accident. He was 36.
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Strzelczyk attended the University of Maine and was an 11th-round pick in the 1990 draft. The 6-foot-3, 309-pound NFL guard and offensive tackle played with the Steelers for nine years. On the field, he was known as a serious and competitive player. But Strzelczyk hurt his knee, and was placed on the injured reserve for the entire 1999 season. The Steelers dropped him in 2000.
Known as “Jugs” to his friends, Strzelczyk spent the past four years acting, playing his banjo and riding motorcycles. Divorced last December, he had recently decided to start up a business making customized wheels and hubcaps.
An hour before the fatal crash, Strzelczyk was involved in a three-car accident just west of Syracuse, N.Y. He left the scene and led state troopers on a high speed, 37-mile highway chase in rush hour traffic before crossing over the lanes and smashing head-on into an empty tanker truck. New York police saw Strzelczyk drinking from a beer bottle before he threw it out the window at them. Harold Jackson, the driver of the tanker, was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released.
[Update: Toxicology results released on Oct. 28 showed that Strzelczyk did not have alcohol or drugs in his system when he died.]