Maurkice Pouncey took a seat in the locker room, the stool beneath him supporting a much lighter load than it had a week earlier. Appropriately, a large trash can stood at the ready close by, just in case.
The Pro Bowl center has been on a diet of bread, yogurt and fluid since a violent stomach virus forced him from a game after 18 plays Sunday night against the Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo. It was not and has not been a pretty sight since then.
"Today's been the first day I actually feel pretty good," said Pouncey, who ran Thursday but did not practice.
He lost 12 pounds since he woke up ill Sunday in Kansas City, knocking him down to 279. He has since gained 2 pounds back and plans to play again Sunday against Cincinnati at Heinz Field.
"I'm definitely going to play," said Pouncey, who has missed just one game -- the Super Bowl Feb. 6 against the Green Bay Packers -- in his two seasons with the Steelers. He expects to practice today.
Pouncey was coughing and sneezing through Saturday night and into Sunday morning said his roommate, tackle Marcus Gilbert. Then Sunday, things took a turn for the worse. He arrived at Arrowhead Stadium and he lost everything he had in his stomach.
"I lost everything for the past month," Pouncey said.
He remained inside during warm-ups, but then took the field with his teammates and played into the second quarter, when he could play no more.
"I just wanted to play, man. In between the plays, I was having dry heaves, I couldn't stop trying to throw up. When I got to the sideline, they wanted to IV me."
Gilbert, like Pouncey a former Florida Gators player, came to the Steelers a year after Pouncey to start on their offensive line as a rookie. He was amazed his teammate could even think of taking the field in Kansas City.
"I've never seen anything like that, especially him. He's played through injuries but this one was a bad deal. He was sick as a dog in the locker room. He was laid out in the bathroom floor with an IV on him.
"I'm glad I didn't get it."
Pouncey became the first rookie to nail down a starting job under coach Mike Tomlin, and made the Pro Bowl as a backup. His teammates and coaches say he's playing even better now.
"I think he's playing smarter than he was his rookie year," tackle Max Starks said. "It's just control, the comfort level with everything. I think it's slowed down in his mind. Still he's playing at the same high level. Now it's not as glamorous or as flashy because it's expected to be the standard now."
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who has been coaching football since 1975, said Pouncey is "probably the toughest young kid I've ever coached. The energy level he brings to the team, you can't measure. It's great, it's what we thrive on in our offensive line. ... His presence in that huddle we miss."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat out the latter part of practice Thursday when he hit his right hand -- and his broken right thumb -- on a helmet while throwing a pass. He spent the rest of practice watching, with an ice wrap on his hand.
Roethlisberger said he expects to be fine and so did his coach.
"A little sting on it, nothing major," Arians described it. "Just ice it down. The last period was mostly runs, just get it healed up properly."
In other injury news, Troy Polamalu returned to a full practice and appears ready to go Sunday. He still must pass concussion tests today. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who returned to play Sunday after missing two games with a knee injury, did not practice Thursday because of an unspecified new injury to his foot. Receiver Arnaz Battle and linebacker Chris Carter, who have hamstring injuries, also did not practice.
Arians, who was mentioned in published reports in Alabama as a possible candidate to become head coach at the University of Mississippi, had a good laugh when he heard about it.
"I can't stand rookies, man, no way in hell I can coach college guys. It's flattering, it's a great university. I do have friends there. I was a Mississippi State guy six years so it would be hard to go to Ole Miss. I'm not a candidate, believe me. Those days have passed me by."
On the other hand, Arians believes quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner and running backs coach Kirby Wilson would be viable candidates. Fichtner has been named as a possible candidate for the University of Memphis opening, although no one has contacted him.
"I think Randy would be a great college head coach, whether it be Ole Miss or Memphis and would do a fantastic job, as would Kirby," Arians said.
In 1974, the year Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's career home run record, another record was being set that went relatively unnoticed: Virginia Tech's quarterback rushed for 11 touchdowns that season, which still stands as the school record for the position.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech's current quarterback, has rushed for 10 this season and is on the verge of breaking the record that even Michael Vick could not touch.
"Dang, I thought I had that thing locked up," said Arians, who quarterbacked the Hokies to a 4-7 record in 1974. "When we were a passing offense I was a running quarterback, and when we were a running offense I was a passing quarterback. We ran the wishbone my senior year. Every time we had it inside the 10, I kept it. My longest run might have been 8 yards."
Virginia Tech (11-1) plays Clemson Saturday for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and a bowl appearance will follow. Thus Thomas will have played three more games than Arians did 37 years ago.
• Game: Bengals vs. Steelers.
• When: 1 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: Heinz Field.
• TV, radio: KDKA, WDVE-FM 102.5/WBGG-AM 970.