One Year Later, Steelers Coach Keith Butler Has Different Outlook For LB Sean Spence

A little over a year ago, Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler was asked to weigh in on inside linebacker Sean Spence, who had suffered a very serious knee injury during the 2012 pre season finale. Butler’s comments at that time weren’t very encouraging.

“It will be miraculous if he does come back. It will be miraculous if he comes back next year,” said Butler of Spence, the Steelers 2012 third-round draft pick out of a Miami. “We are going to take a chance on him and see if he can come back. To me, he is worth every bit of that.”

On Saturday, Butler again updated Spence’s condition when he talked to the media about the selection of inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt in the sixth-round by the Steelers and this time his outlook was a much more positive one.

“From what I’ve seen on the field, I know I said about a year or two ago that it would be miraculous if he came back, and I hope he proves me wrong. It is getting really close to being miraculous,” said Butler. “He looks real good to me. We will see how the knee holds up when he starts hitting and things like that. Right now I’m real encouraged by the way he looks. He is such an exceptional young man and you hope that it works out for him, and I think it will.”

Should Spence wind up being able to complete his comeback over the course of the summer, his chances of contributing on defense as a starter in 2014 took a big hit when the Steelers drafted Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier Thursday night in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. On top of that, the selection of Zumwalt on Saturday added yet another player that Spence will have to beat out in training camp.

The Steelers rookie mini camp will get underway this coming Thursday and being as Spence missed the last two seasons, one would think that he will be allowed to attend and participate. There’s been no confirmation of that, however, so we’ll have to wait and see if that is indeed the case.

Spence had reportedly been working out most of the offseason in Florida without limitations, so by next weekend the Steelers coaches might have an even better idea as to whether or not he’ll be a serious contender during training camp for a roster spot. With all of these inside linebacker bodies now on the offseason roster, Butler will certainly be busy sorting through all of them.

“Great competition at the inside linebacker position, we are going to have some,” said Butler.

  • Aric Brown

    I thought Zumwalt was OLB

  • blackandgoldBullion

    He is ILB, but might be a little flexible. He may be more built for the outside and I would like his temperament there. Good backup and hopefully a ST stud.

  • 804Stiller

    Is there a possibility that Spence could have position flexibility? I wonder if he has the ability to play some safety. Maybe, I’m just being optimistic but that would be sweet. What do you guys think this draft means for “da beard” and/or deebo? Barring injury does this mean we wouldn’t have a need to resign either?

  • SteelersDepot

    nope. Butler said inside.

  • joed32

    I agree, I think he could be able to back up both.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    He could replace the NT some sub packages.

  • Aric Brown

    He played a little bit of safety in college

  • Rubem Dornas

    Lots of ILB and we’ll have to handle one year more with Chris Carter? Can’t believe this.

  • cencalsteeler

    I’m with you. If the line backing corps works out, I’d love to see him moved over to the strong safety position. Imagine that line up!

  • 804Stiller

    Agreed, I’d rather have Harrison for depth…………

  • steelster

    If they sign james Harrison I think carter will be cut.

  • AzheDraven

    Thats what i was thinking. Drafted 2 ILB, Timmons, Moats, Spence, VW, Garvin and Wilson. and OLB? Our might core of Worilds, Jones and… Carter.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I’m sure Moats gets kicked to OLB. Theres a log jam at the ILB position now. I’m hoping they do bring back Deebo for one year. Not sure what the draft means for Da Beard now since we have quite a few guys at DE albeit not very experienced.

  • Bradys_Dad

    Love this LB discussion. Great input from all. I have been kicking around in the cob-webby part of my gray matter that Jarvis (albeit in his rookie year) didn’t show much of anything last year. Am I the only one who feels that if he doesn’t beef up the frame and hit the weight room much more aggressively, he may end up on the outside looking in? Granted it was his 1st year. Granted the Steelers D is a sometimes rather complex learning curve in itself. But let’s not overlook the fact that he was a #1 pick. He should have higher expectations thrust upon him. I’m not pooping on a 1st year guy here. I’m just watching this with a very jaundiced eye. Best case scenario he lives up to all of his incoming hype and becomes the next great edge rushing threat. I really hope so, but ……

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Do you think Spence would be versatile enough to play OLB?

  • steeltown

    They brought Moats in to play outside, he’s even listed as OLB on the official Steelers roster.

  • SteelersDepot


  • Paddy

    Can’t have too many linebackers in the 3/4 defense, it’s the life blood of the team

  • SteelerDave

    I strongly disliked the Jones pick and had hoped they would not draft him. He simply is not strong enough for the NFL and lacks technique. Shame on the Steelers for wasting a pick on him and a first rounder at that.

  • MJ

    Spence is a special talent, I have a feeling if he is able to hold up to hitting and can play at 100% it will others who will need to look for work elsewhere. SS is also a possibility. Remember they traded up for him.

  • OIF3gunner

    Hahaha awesome

  • OIF3gunner

    Maybe we can just sign Lawrence Taylor……………………………………………

  • Arthur Branch

    Heard this about Worilds too, now he is making 10 mill this year.

  • 804Stiller

    Agreed, I looked a Worilds versus Jones last preseason and was thinking “he’s way too small” but I remember Worilds being small at one point. I liked the progress Jones made last year. We was solid against the run and made some plays that showed flashes of exceptional quickness. Next year, he should be able to play off instinct rather than thinking. No linebackers really kill it first year for us. I think he will be a pleasant surprise this season.

  • AzheDraven

    That makes more sense, since he is a liability on coverage but I believe he can rush.

  • PoKey21

    Even if Spence is fully healthy this offseason I wouldn’t have him penciled in over Vince Williams. He hasn’t proved anything on the field and physically it would be his rookie season which is always hard for LBs to keep up with the change of speed.Basically I think Williams handled it better than a healthy Spence would have (im sure im in the minority though). It looks like Spences only fully healthy offseason and season will be 2015, which is also when his rookie contract expires. If he shows that he can handle a couple full NFL seasons I really hope he shows some loyalty during contract negotiations. He has had a rough few years and the team has really stuck by him. Even with all the depth at ilb we need capable backups and a good gunner on ST.

  • shawn

    i know nothing of Zumwalt, but on film he looks pretty lean and i have trouble picturing him being able to anchor the middle … thinking he would get pushed around … purely by looks … would think he would do better in space

  • Bradys_Dad

    Let’s hope that you’re right. Nothing would make the Nation happier.

  • Derick L Young

    OLBs are usually bigger than ILBs

  • Jacque Strappe

    So, you’re throwing him out with the bath water after one season at the position likely most difficult to master in Lebeau’s defense? Yep, great idea. I think he’s gonna have a solid year. He has terrific speed and a high motor. By all accounts he’s worked on his strength. He has a year of learning the defense under his belt. I think he’s gonna be a stud.

  • steeltown

    He has good size for outside 6’2 250+lbs and he excels against the run. He has some pass rush skills but hasn’t been asked to do it much the last couple yrs. They’ll work on it.

  • Bradys_Dad

    Obviously you didn’t read or comprehend what I wrote. I certainly wish nothing but great success for JJ, however I like countless others, had higher expectations for a #1 coming from the SEC who by all accounts was lauded as a plug and play OLB. Now if you had actually read what I wrote you’d see that my comments were purely speculative yet optimistic. No babies, no bath-water. Like you, I “hope” that he does turn in to the stud we’ve all been told that he is. Time will tell.

  • shawn

    not really going by how big he is … just talking about his frame, on the flip side .. .really think he could do well in STs, nothing specific to base it on, just a hunch !

  • Jonas

    Or remember Polamalus first season 😉

  • Jacque Strappe

    You obviously thought I was replying to you. I was replying to SteelerDave. He expects an OLB to come right in and play and that’s just absurd. If you also thought he would step right in and dominate, well that’s unreal expectation to the nth degree. When was the last time that happened? Took Woodley a year. Why would we expect more from Jones? Tough to do what Kendrell Bell did.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Actually there is something specific that would lead us to believe he would be perfectly suited to ST. In the open field he hits people HARD! If Zumwalt wants it bad enough he can make the team as a Special Teamer, where he may provide a few highlight reel hits.

  • shawn

    ya …just seems like that type of player !