The selection of Miami weak-side outside linebacker Sean Spence by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL draft certainly has a few people scratching their heads it seems. I think that I am not the only one that figured the nose tackle position was likely to be addressed with the pick. Why in the world would the Steelers draft a linebacker that wasn\’t best suited for the BUCK role or rushing the quarterback on the outside?
Spence measures in at 5 foot 11 inches and weighs 231 pounds. He flies around the field like a bullet and is a more than willing tackler as evidenced with his 318 tackles in 47 games in college. Linebacker coach Keith Butler said during his press conference Friday night following the selection that they see Spence as an inside linebacker and certainly not as a BUCK. So they see him as a MACK backup to Lawrence Timmons, who signed a long term extension last offseason? Spending a third round pick on a backup to Timmons makes no sense at all, does it?
Whoa, whoa, whoa stop the clock. If you follow me on Twitter you already know where I am going with this. Spence flies around the field like another player on the Steeler defense and that player doesn\’t play linebacker, but he does line up in the box quite a bit like one. I am of course talking about Troy Polamalu. Spence easily separates from contact and is always around the football. He might be listed as having 4.66 40 speed, but he plays much faster than that. His short shuttle time of 4.28 does match his good agility.
Miami linebacker coach Michael Barrow called Spence a special player and stated that not only is Spence Peyton Manning-smart, but that he also has the instincts to match. Super smart and instincts? Sure sounds like Polamalu there as well. While I might be reading a little much into his play, I invite you to grab a look at some of his highlights. Maybe he can backup Timmons at the MACK position down the road and I firmly expect him to contribute on special teams initially. How can he not? Timmons however isn\’t going anywhere anytime soon and that is what makes this pick such a head scratcher.
Should the Steelers draft another linebacker in this draft, and they certainly could, someone needs to ask Butler during his press conference if Spence is candidate to be groomed as a strong safety. They say tape doesn\’t lie and the tape is telling me he plays a lot like Polamalu. Maybe the liar here is Butler, and I mean that in a good way mind you. You can\’t expect a coach to come out and tell you everything, especially right slap dab in the middle of draft.
Maybe the initials SS will always be his listed position for Spence down the road or maybe I just have the Hurricane linebacker pegged wrong.
ETA: Mark Kaboly asked about Spence and he was told the he is not a prospect to move to strong safety, but that he does need to put weight on which makes sense. Although I did not spell my thoughts out good in the post, the preface was to say how Spence plays a lot like Troy Polamalu does when used down in the box. Spence certainly fits a hybrid mold of nickel linebacker to help counteract these pass catching running backs and hybrid tight ends we are seeing. I will have extended thoughts on this after the draft.