Categorized | 2013 Draft, Article, News

Health Of Sean Spence Holds Keys To Steelers Future At Inside Linebacker Position


I am asked at least once a week via email or Twitter if I have heard anything about how the recovery of Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Sean Spence is coming along since he suffered his serious left knee injury last preseason that included a torn ACL, a torn LCL and a dislocated knee cap. All I can tell you at this point is that the reports range from him possibly being ready by the time training camp opens to the Steelers not planning on counting on him much in 2013.

Being as the reports vary so much, I don\'t think that anyone outside of the Steelers organization really knows the answer to that question, but hopefully we will get some sort of an update when Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert talks to the media this coming week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Colbert might not spill the whole truth, however, in an effort to play his draft cards close to his vest.

The Steelers seemingly have some serious question marks at the inside linebacker position at this point in the offseason outside of Spence as veteran Larry Foote is an unrestricted free agent and Stevenson Sylvester is a restricted free agent. Sylvester is expected to be restricted tendered at an original round level, but until he is, the only inside linebackers currently under contract for 2013 are Spence, Lawrence Timmons, Marshall McFadden, Kion Wilson and Brian Rolle. McFadden spent most of the season on the Steelers practice squad last year while both Wilson and Rolle were futures signings earlier this offseason.

Foote wants to return in 2013, but the only way that happens is if he his willing to settle for a one-year deal close to the minimum. The jury has long been out on Sylvester, who played all of one snap in 2012 on defense and a total of 75 since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 draft.

The health of Spence, who Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler called a MACK prospect that needed to be covered up after he was drafted last April, could be a huge deciding factor in how early the Steelers decide to draft an inside prospect in a few months.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock listed Alec Ogletree, Manti Te\'o, Kevin Minter, Kevin Reddick and Kiko Alonso as his top five pre combine inside linebackers this past week. Ogletree is almost certainly off the Steelers draft board right now due to all of his character red flags that include him being arrested just last weekend for DUI and Te\'o still has questions to answer about his imaginary girlfriend fiasco along with his play against Alabama in the championship game. That leaves Minter as the only remaining first round worthy player of the five Mayock listed.

Unless Te\'o or Minter wind up being selected in round one, the Steelers will more than likely have to wait until round three or later to address the position to get value. It should also be noted that a rookie defensive player is unlikely to see the field during his first season baring an injury. The last Steelers defensive draft pick to open the season as a starter was linebacker Kendrell Bell back in 2001.

Should Spence wind up being deemed not ready to contribute in 2013 then the Steelers will be forced to re-sign Foote, and quite possibly even Brandon Johnson, who played all of two snaps last year. Foote will be 33 come the start of the season while Johnson, if ultimately re-signed, will turn 30 in May.

McFadden showed promise last preseason after leading the team in tackles, but that is the last time we saw him on the field. Wilson and Rolle are just training camp bodies at this point until they prove otherwise.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Mikey Hoje

    Sean Spence “attacks” when he tackles ball carrier… Troy style. Cept’ 20 lbs heavier.

  • Jollyrob68

    I see Spence as the future Safety. let him heal up and learn from Troy & Ryan.
    Brian Rolle to me isn’t a camp body he was a starter for Philly his rookie year. He should makes the 53 roster.
    They could bring Foote back to camp for vet mini but they really need to see what else they have.
    Same goes for James H, He must take a paycut bit by keeping him you risk losing the future with Worilds. He’s a UFA in 2014.

  • Jollyrob68

    What was the issue with Mortty Ivy? I liked him and thought he had a real shot with The Steelers.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ESU2VFZHEUTQEPJ7AWSN7ODBPQ Emac2

    Does anyone know if he’s being kept at Guantanamo or did they send him to one of the secret camps?

    I’m hoping that the Red Cross is allowed in at some point so we can get some answers. If only there was a profession dedicated to getting real information from real people and sharing it with the rest of us….

  • SteelSpine

    Good timing of article & listing alternatives for ILB, since a recent rumor Spence might never be able to play again. Spence’s injury being severe (multiple parts), hope for an Adrian Peterson “miracle” recovery. For now, Spence’s injury being severe further vindicates the posters who have been shouting to re-sign Larry Foote. Speaking of yinz,,,

    For some reason some posters love Foote more than Rex Ryan does. :)

    I don’t, because I want more speed at Larry Foote’s position, but to the fans with the Foote fetish: don’t worry the Steelers will re-sign Larry because he’s the only player we have who can call the plays since LeBeau requires so long to learn LeBeau’s system. That’s even if Spence were healthy, Steelers have no choice but to sign Foote, I think it’s a no-brainer that they’ll sign Foote to a 1year deal.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    I still think that Te’o is worth the pick at 17, regardless of that girlfriend incident or the one bad game against Alabama. I think he could be the next Farrior for us

  • Cody Younkin

    Plus I blame the steelers for there unwillingness to play any of there depth players and feel confident behind any of there back ups.

  • SteelSpine

    But not in the speed range of safety, according to scouts & apparently the Steelers staff. I recall when drafted him we needed a SS & he is small so I wondered why when Steelers staff were asked right-after draft can Spence be moved to SS, Steelers staff quickly squashed with a “NO”. So back then I looked it up & Spence’s listed time was not up near minimum speed of prospects who get drafted to play either safety. I know 40 time can be overrated & we still badly need a SS, just pointing out the question of Spence to safety was already firmly answered by Steelers staff long ago right-after he was drafted.

  • grw1960

    After the draft we will probably get better info on Spence.

    You may be right about the Steelers waiting till round 3 if they don’t pick ILB in round one . But if I was a betting man. I would say there will be at least 2 LBs go in round 2 that could play ILB for the Steelers.I like Minter best .

    Bur Arthur Brown , Teo, and maybe one other could be there in round 2.

    To bad Ogletree is a head case.

  • Jazz

    No Way! We all seen the type of player this kid was against some real competition when Notre Dame played the big boys. That was not a coincidence either; Te’o will face even better competition at the next level. He’s too slow, the kid is way Overrated. Let some other team draft him and his imaginary playmates. The Steelers do not need a circus at Training Camp; this kid is another Tebow, over-hyped threw the media.

  • Nolrog

    It’s time to stop with all the “Steeler defense is too complicated for a rookie” crap. Every other team starts rookies and in many cases they do well. People learn a lot more by doing than they do by watching.

  • zyzak

    Teo can play right away, Spense cant be counted on and he’s way too small

  • zyzak

    He played against the best for 4 years. He was a team caption to a team that had an undefeted season. You’re goofy if you think the Ravens wont pick him if they trade up.

  • zyzak

    Too slow and not a leader

  • zyzak

    Spense cant be counted on way too slow

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Well done.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Agreeing, but Tell LeBeau.

  • Nolrog

    I tend to agree.

  • Nolrog

    Ravens are desperate for a MILB to replace Lewis. They’d take Te’o in a second if he was there.

  • Nolrog

    He was supposed to be really fast (how much he lost because of the knee remains to be seen though.)

  • westernsteel

    Amen! Draft a LB in the first round and play him…..everyone else does!

  • mlc43

    Spence played horribly during the preseason. Actually, that was harsh. I will restate and say that his lack of size and/or strength was evident. He could not get off the blocks. He did fine making plays in the open field but that isn’t exactly what ILB does. Also, he was ALWAYS too slow to play safety. I didn’t get the pick when it was made but I feel for the kid. Hope he gets healthy and can play again.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Yeah and even in the game against Bama where he wasn’t his best he was still able to contribute 10 total tackles( 4 solo ) and though out his career at Notre Dame he was their heart and solo before and after all the incidents

  • GH05T

    after spence’s injury last season i’m not convinced he’ll ever play again

  • Superdriller316

    He might be to slow now, but he was a lot faster on the field than what his 40 time said.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Never understood the love affair with Spence. He performed well in the mini camps w/o pads but once he put the pads on he couldnt get off blocks from guys who will never play in the NFL during training camp. I thought of him as a cover guy for these hybrid TE’s. A 3rd down LB if you will. that was it.

  • HarryBackside

    Remember when conventional wisdom stated that a QB had to sit for a few years before starting? Now it’s the norm.

    If it’s now expected that a rookie be able to step in and play the most important position in football, then an ILB should be able to do the same thing.

    Defensive rookies don’t typically start for the Steelers because they don’t have to. There is usually an entrenched player who has experience playing in LeBeau’s system, which allows for the luxury of letting a rookie learn the defense until his number is called.

  • HarryBackside

    I don’t think the pool of options is strictly limited to college ILB’s. Timmons was an OLB in college, and he seemed to do pretty well making the switch inside.

  • TheBlitz

    This is a no brainer. Foote will be resigned for one more year. He did a decent job last season. He knows the system well, and nobody is ready to play the position behind him. Not even a 1st round draft pick.

    Yes he is 33, but he still has enough left in the tank to play one or two more years. His body hasn’t been abused that much over the years.

    Given the lack of depth and talent at the position, I believe there is a need to draft a stud this year to groom to take on that role next season. Te’o is the best prospect at the position. He is worthy of a 1st round pick at 17.

    ILB is the weakest position on our team. We can’t screw this one up!

    If Timmons and Foote were out last season for just a combined 3 weeks, 8-8 record would have easily been 5-11. Nobody was ready to play behind them. A lot of people are overlooking the position because Timmons has fortunately played without significant injuries throughout his career. There is a reason why Colbert thought this position needed to be addressed during his press conference.

  • Clint Martin

    Teo is more suited for a 4-3 ILB and not the best option Minter however is a 3-4 ILB

  • Clint Martin

    He is to slow sideline to sideline! The 37 year old Farrior or the 24 year old one?And not even a 3-4 ILB

  • Clint Martin

    Lets face it Notre Dame doesn’t face tough competition every game!

  • Clint Martin

    The Best LMFAO!!!

  • Clint Martin

    He made 10 tackles because BAMA was up and down the field so many times goofy. I could of made at least 3-4 tackles in that game

  • Clint Martin

    The funny thing is he is more of a mack ILB not a Buck.He is supposed to be Timmons backup not Foote

  • Clint Martin

    He wasn’t a 1st round pick he was a 3rd

  • Clint Martin

    That is 1 of the dumbest things I have ever read! If you want a Safety draft a safety you don’t pay a player who has never played a position to learn a new position for 3 years or so DUMB!

  • steeltown

    I like Mcfadden, but he’ll be a backup if anything

    Lets face it, Foote should be re-signed for ONE more season, even IF Spence is ready to play.. he wont be ready to be the signal caller this year

  • steeltown

    Cant agree more… would like more speed at the position (which was why they drafted Spence to begin with) but really there is nobody else to be the signal caller, atleast not this season. Foote already said he’d play for less money to stay in PA. I see a one year deal coming, while they figure out this whole Spence, Sly, Rolle, Wilson, Mcfadden or (draft pick) situation.

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Not sure what we have in Spence yet or Brian Rolle for that matter, but it sure doesnt look like Sylvestor is the answer and I doubt B.Johnson will be back either.

    I look for Foote to sign a one year deal, with a draft pick and either Brian Rolle or M.Mcfadden as backups to him and Timmons.. and Spence on the PUP

  • steeltown

    I liked him to.. couldve possibly played inside and outside for us (if needed) but Im not sure he was anything more than a real solid backup, atleast at the time

  • steeltown

    I dont agree with Spence at Safety… but I do agree that Brian Rolle has a real solid chance of making the Team.

  • TheBlitz

    Exactly! There is no depth nor talent at the position.

    Unless a guy like Jarvis Jones or maybe Chance Warmack is there at 17 (very unlikely), draft Te’o. He can contribute on a limited basis from day 1.

    Timmons was very good last season with Foote (younger and faster ILB than what we’ve seen from Farrior last couple years), now imagine what he could be with Te’o next to him. He will freelance like crazy!

  • mlc43

    What does that have to do with anything?

  • http://twitter.com/Johnny_Loose Johnny Loose

    if you watched his highlights from college you would understand why people were excited about him. He was a playmaker and a GREAT form tackler in college. He seemed to be in on every play. As far as not getting off blocks and having some trouble, he was a rookie. Did you expect him to become Patrick Willis in his first season?

  • markthom

    U know? Been saying that for last 2 weeks they act like its brain surgery. These kids take home the playbook and can get as much film as they need. Its bullshit we coddle these Defensive draft picks for 3-4 yrs its a joke. I feel the organization is just comfortable with how develop these players. They need to change that Model we need to start playing these players earlier than later. Rookies get to play on Offense wtf? Its nothing but excuses.

  • markthom

    exactly can’t say nothing bad about Spence in college he was a beast for a half ass miami team. the boy can play now whois saying he never play again? Lattimore knee was a mess too and he is on the way back

  • markthom

    Safety is the weakest position Golden is the only guy on the roster for next yr are u kidding me? Sylvester is a RFA, Mcfadden, Robinson They just picked a couple FA Brandon johnson, Brian Rolle so there are bodies I feel Sylvester should start. We need to address both positions in the 1st and 2nd rd. If we can move back in the 1st to acquire more picks we can fill alot of needs. 2014 we will have more picks due to the loss of FA

If you enjoy our content & podcast, feel free to buy us a cup of coffee below.
Shop for 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Nike and New Era Team Gear at Fanatics

Archives