(Jan. 28, 2009) TAMPA — When the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field Sunday in Super Bowl XLIII, they’ll need to be in top physical condition.

In addition to the team’s three athletic trainers, three licensed massage therapists were hired by the team to be on-call just for this week in Tampa.

Chris Pikosky is one of those three massage therapists working out the Steelers’ aches and pains. He has been the Florida Everblades’ team massage therapist since 1998.

Pikosky has been helping Steelers’ wide receiver Hines Ward not feel the soreness in his strained knee ligament, an injury he sustained in the Steelers’ AFC Championship win against the Ravens on Jan. 18. And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s aching shoulder feel better, thanks to Pikosky.

Pikosky specializes in clinical massage and he has worked at Naples’ Water Works Total Rehab, a physical therapy clinic, for the past 14 years. But his passion lies in working with elite athletes.

“I’ve constantly sought out other professionals in the human performance (athletic training) industry, and I travel to go work with them,” said Pikosky, who has a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and a minor in nutrition from Southern Connecticut State.

In June 2008, Pikosky was asked to work at the Tom Shaw Performance Enhancement program at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando where he spent a week in Orlando working with 35 NFL and college football players — including Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, former Pro Bowl linebacker James Farrior, cornerback Bryant McFadden and wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

Tom Shaw, the well-known strength and conditioning coach, had never employed a massage therapist at his program before last summer, so the players took advantage of Pikosky immediately.

“Guys were literally lined up,” Pikosky said. “I had players ringing my doorbell at the apartment where I stayed (at the Wide World of Sports), asking for massages every night.”

Pikosky made such an impact that when Shaw spoke to Taylor and Farrior a few weeks ago, they told Shaw they were wondering how to get in touch with Pikosky to recommend him to their team trainers for working as an on-call massage therapist at the Super Bowl. Shaw gave out Pikosky’s contact information and also passed on his recommendation to Steelers head trainer John Norwig.

Twenty minutes later, Pikosky got an e-mail from Norwig.

“You will be added to our massage support staff at the Super Bowl,” Norwig wrote.

Said Pikosky: “Obviously what was running through my head was that the Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in the year … they could’ve asked anyone to come, and they asked me.”

“This is the single defining moment of my career.”