There is a reason Maurkice Pouncey has been at the Steelers practice facility practically every day during what has already been a long offseason for him. He never let the frigid temperatures or heavy snowfall and ice of winter or driving spring rains keep him away.
It's because what drives Pouncey, not even Mother Nature can stand in the way of.
He wants to be back on the football field. He wants it bad. And he wants it as soon as the Steelers offseason workouts begin later in the spring.
View photos of Maurkice Pouncey's rehabilitation at the South Side Practice Facility.
"I can't wait. I have been away from football for a full season," said Pouncey. "You lose that much time, sit back and see all of the guys enjoying it. Even though we didn't have the best season, you always build the memories each and every year. I wasn't a part of that this year. It's my team. I want to get back to help us win."
Pouncey's 2013 season was cut short before it really had a chance to get started when he suffered a serious knee injury just four minutes into the first quarter of the season-opener against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 8 at Heinz Field.
Missing the entire season was gut wrenching for him, unable to be anything more than a mere spectator.
"It was hard," said Pouncey in an unusually quiet tone. "Reality hits you. You enjoy it for so long and I think people take advantage of the situation they're in and don't realize it until it's gone. I think that's what happened to me. Whenever it did happen it was a shock and a reality check. It made me realize how much I love football."
One thing that kept him going was being a part of offensive line team meetings, giving tips to younger players, staying as involved mentally as he possibly could.
"I am glad Coach (Mike) Tomlin made me come back, be around the team, made me go to meetings last season," said Pouncey. "I just kind of enjoyed being around the guys and that helped me."
Pouncey underwent surgery shortly after the injury, and the road to recovery started not long after. But it's not an injury you come back from overnight. It can take up to nine months just to function normally again. It takes time, it takes patience. Pouncey, though, doesn't feel like he has either as his goal is to take part in at least a portion of the team's OTAs.
He "graduated" from training room rehab after three months, and then went on a workout regime with strength and conditioning Coach Garrett Giemont in the weight room that has him making huge strides.
"Once you get into the weight room it's so different," said Pouncey. "You are so used to being in the training room and it's all this easy stuff. Once you go into the weight room it's full speed and you go back to lifting weights, squatting. It's a lot more difficult than people think."
Pouncey credits the team's athletic training and strength and conditioning staff with how far he has made it, but it's his passion for football that is the true driving force.
"I just want to show that only you can hold you back from doing what you want to do," said Pouncey. "As far as me, it's rehab. I have to have the dedication and desire to get back to football, which is what I want."
The sweat was pouring off of Pouncey as he stepped off the Alter-G treadmill, an anti-gravity machine that has been allowing him to run without putting undo pressure on his knee. He starts off walking, but within the 20 minute workout it turns into a full sprint.
"It is intense, but I have been away from running and football for so long so it's helped me get back in shape," said Pouncey. "It's keeps the pressure off my knee, keeps the swelling down. You aren't outside running and putting your total body weight on it. It's a great rehab source. It's gets you better a lot faster. We are going at the right pace and everything is good right now."
After a few minutes to breathe, it's right back to work. This time leg lifts as he works his way down what looks like an endless hallway outside of the weight room and locker room, lifting his legs high with each stride.
"You use it to get your running form back," said Pouncey. "You go 45 yards forward with high knees up. And you walk backwards 45 yards. It's a tough workout. It burns your hips. It gets your hip flexors going."
After that it was the Run Rocket that was no match for him, doing side shuffles down the hallway while working on his explosion and agility, before heading into the weight room for his normal workouts of leg presses, hamstring curls and the like.
It looks painful. It looks like it hurts. It looks like it's one of the last things you would want to be doing. Pouncey just laughs at those thoughts.
"I think it's just a great workout," said Pouncey. "Painful is kind of a harsh word. When you feel something you have to tough through everything. Rehab isn't going to be joyful, but I don't think I want to use pain as the word."
Pouncey is in the homestretch, in the final months of getting back to what he calls "being myself again." He knows there is still progress to be made, but at the same time he can't believe how far he has come.
"The toughest part is running like I used to," said Pouncey. "It's so hard to get back to it. I taking strides now. When I first started it was like will I ever be able to do this again. Now I am to the point where I can't wait to get back to top speed again.
"When this first happened I thought I was going to be out for the longest time. I was never expecting to be walking like this now, to be able to do all of the things I can do in the weight room. I never thought it."
As he sees the light at the end of the tunnel, he is excited, hopeful and looking forward to putting a helmet back on and taking the field.
"For me football is the only thing I have ever really done and loved," said Pouncey. "To get it taken away from you, to lose everything you are good at and worked so hard at every day to do was tough.
"Now that I can finally get back and finally step down the line and kick step some, and run and soon get out there and just practice. That is what I really want to do. I can't wait to get back out there and stretch for the first time with the team and get back out there and do a live drill. It will be awesome."