On a bitter cold winter morning, with temperatures hovering in the single digits and most people not wanting to venture outside the comfort of home, receiver Antonio Brown was at the Steelers' practice facility on the South Side.
With no required workouts until OTAs begin in the spring, Brown didn't have to be there. He could have easily stayed home, and stayed warm. But instead he stayed on course, as he has done since the season ended, working out one his own either at the team's facility or elsewhere.
"The battle is ongoing. It's never ending," said Brown. "I have taken a break as far as pounding my body, but you have to keep the cardio up, which keeps my strength up."
Brown's workouts range from some light weight lifting, to basic cardio to swimming, allowing him to work on breathing, heart rate and endurance.
"You have to do something to better yourself every day," said Brown. "You have to take a step every day to be your best.
"If you want to be your best, you have to outwork your opponent. My opponent is not just someone I am competing against, but I am my biggest opponent. I know if I compete against myself every day I am working to be my best. That is something I always take pride in, working to better myself."
Brown knows that last season's 8-8 record was unacceptable, the first time in his three-year NFL career without post-season play. He doesn't want a repeat of it, a year where he found himself a spectator during the playoffs, watching games from home.
"It definitely adds fuel to it," said Brown. "You always have to have drive. You learn a lot from last year, put it behind you for the most part, but you still have to remember some of it and get better and work to make a difference so you don't have that same experience.
"Watching the playoffs was motivation. You see teams you played against and wonder why it wasn't us. You wonder was it our ability physically on the field or was it our mentality, or team chemistry. A lot of things come up. You had a feeling that you wanted to be out there and you hope your teammates get the same feeling when they were watching it."
With fellow receiver Mike Wallace about to enter free agency, Brown knows that he could be called upon to carry more of the load going into the 2013 season. He feels ready for whatever comes his way, and knows every extra bit of work he puts in this offseason will help to ensure that.
"I am always ready," said Brown. "I am ready no matter who is here, no matter who goes. I am always working on getting better. I will be ready no matter what the situation is. Whoever stays in the room, we just have to know the importance of working hard and with the right attitude. We haven't really won anything, we haven't done anything, so we have to take the poor man approach that we don't have anything and we are hungry to get everything and appreciate what we have. We have to work with that mentality and if we do that we will make less mistakes and mental errors and win more."
The Steelers lost several veteran leaders before the 2012 season, and with three years now under his belt Brown knows he needs to take on that kind of role. While he prefers leading by example, he might have to challenge himself to step out of his comfort zone and become more of a vocal leader.
"We have a lot of young guys," said Brown. "A lot of guys haven't been around here for the history of this team. I want to make sure guys understand the importance of being here, the tradition and what is required from our peers, coaches and everybody inside this building. You have to know the history of something if you are a part of it. You have to know where it started, where it came from and what it's about. You know where you are with it now and where you want to go. I can help teach guys about that and take that type of approach.
"Every man here has to understand the importance of what the Steelers logo stands for, the men that came before us and wore the jersey and we have to understand the importance of it, be humbled by it and work with that mentality."