Stevenson Sylvester stood outside the Steelers' weight room, looking a bit tired as sweat poured down his face, but smiling from ear to ear.
"It is awesome," said Sylvester. "It's truly awesome."
Not the normal reaction you get from a player who just finished working out, but after the recent uncertainty regarding his football future, it's no surprise Sylvester was so happy to be at the Steelers' practice facility working up a sweat.
Sylvester went into free agency expecting to be a restricted free agent, but when he didn't receive a tender offer from the Steelers he quickly became an unrestricted free agent, free to sign anywhere. There was no where he wanted to be more than Pittsburgh and the uncertainty wasn't easy to deal with.
"It's extremely tough," said Sylvester. "It's the kind of feeling you got when you went to the combine, it's the unknown. What you have to do is just do your job during the season and let your agent do his job during the offseason. It was tough, definitely tough. The guys you came in with are getting the offers and you aren't. You don't know what is going to happen, if someone else is interested in you, if the Steelers are interested in you. I was going with the flow. There is a plan for everyone. There was a plan for me, so I went with it. I was optimistic about it. I knew something would get done. Talking to people who dealt with free agency before I learned it could be the first day, the 20th day or right before the season starts. The best thing you can do is stay ready for whatever happens.
"While I waited I was getting myself ready for whatever outcome, whether I was with the Steelers or a new team, the key for me has been preparing to come back as a better player. The approach I took was working as if I was still with the team. You can't be there working out, but you still work out the same and get prepared for whatever comes your way."
What came his way last week was what he hoped for, remaining with the Steelers. Sylvester signed a one-year contract, keeping the fourth-year inside linebacker right where he wanted to be.
"I kept that mindset that I would be back," said Sylvester. "Pittsburgh is a great place and it's where I wanted to be. I was working out, hanging out with some of the guys and going about my business getting ready for the season, getting my body ready for the season.
"I am excited to have another year with the people I have been with the last three years. Change is hard, you can ask anybody that. Having the ability to stay for another year with your brothers, teammates you have been around for the last three years is incredible. All of the guys knew the situation, knew what was going on, and they are truly happy for me to get back. Being around the guys makes it feel more normal and beneficial. I love working out at the team's practice facility. It's like my home. I am either home or the facility, so working out here is just great, getting the body right for the season."
Sylvester is hoping the work he puts in, as well as what the team does in the upcoming OTAs, mini-camp and training camp, brings much better results than last season when the team finished a disappointing 8-8, a record nobody expects them to repeat.
"The one thing the Steelers organization does is always improve," said Sylvester. "They make tough decisions, but it's always the right decision to get in the proper place to win. Being a part of that outcome is exciting to me. I am looking forward to what we are going to do. After last season everyone was disappointed in where we ended up and where we could have been. There are things we could have and should have done. We had opportunities that we missed last season.
"The Steelers know what to do and how to do it to get back on track. You don't see too many 8-8 seasons here, and especially not back-to-back, so I know we will do a lot better in 2013."