Next week is an important one for Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Sean Spence and tight Matt Spaeth as both can begin practicing with the team if deemed healthy enough to do.
Spence, who was placed on the Reserve PUP list at the start the season, can begin playing right away per the rules of PUP, but that's not likely to happen due to all of the time that he's missed. If he is able to resume practicing next week, however, and there's guarantee yet that he will, the Steelers will likely want to slowly acclimate him back into action being as he hasn't practiced since tearing up his knee in the 2012 preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.
The Steelers don't have to rush their 2012 third-round draft pick along if he's not ready as they will have a three week window starting next week in which he must begin practicing. However, once he does begin practicing, a new three week window will then open at the end of which he must be placed on the active roster or on injured reserve. In other words, they could string this out for several more weeks if he's not quite ready.
The situation with Spaeth, who suffered a Lisfranc injury during training camp, is a bit different being as he was placed on the injured reserve list with the designated to return tag in week one. While Spaeth can resume practicing as early as next week, he cannot play until week nine as the rules state that he must miss at least the first eight weeks of the season.
Just like with Spence, once Spaeth resumes practicing, the Steelers will have a three week window open in which they must place him back on the 53 man roster or on the season-ending injured reserve list.
Spaeth suffered his injury on August 7, so as of right now he's had just over nine weeks worth of recovery time. Initial reports stated that it would take him 8-10 weeks to fully recover.
When head coach Mike Tomlin meets the media next Tuesday, I suspect he will be asked to update the status of both Spence and Spaeth at that time, so we should have a little more clarity then.