Sean Spence Caps Off Physical Week With A Taste Of What Could Have Been

Even after Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Sean Spence passed his first contact test last week, demonstrating that his reconstructed knee and regenerated nerves could withstand the human onslaught that is football, the cynical question of whether or not he could sustain that level of violence remained in the minds of many outside observers.

But the third-year inside linebacker not only trucked through the full slate of six straight padded practices leading into the Tuesday off day, he capped it off by taking some reps with the starting defense with rookie Ryan Shazier off to the sidelines nursing a “little booboo”, as head coach Mike Tomlin described it.

It was a fitting symbol for how much progress he’s shown over the past week to be able to end a brutal week of smacking pads by playing with the first-team defense, which is where he might be playing now had he never suffered that career-threatening injury nearly two years ago.

The final hurdle will come on Saturday, when the Steelers open up their preseason slate against the New York Giants on Saturday in MetLife Stadium, but given how far he’s already come, it’s hard to imagine at this point that he will falter now.

It’s been a long road back for the former third-round pick out of the University of Miami, whose last game action of any sort came in the 2012 preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers on August 30, during which he recorded six tackles.

Even though he’s officially listed as third on the depth chart at the left inside linebacker position, behind Shazier and Vince Williams, of course, that’s not functionally how it works out. Williams is the backup to the right, ‘buck’ linebacker position behind Lawrence Timmons, where Terence Garvin is currently listed.

But when the Steelers trot out their second-team defense on Saturday night, expect to see Spence lined up next to Williams as the inside linebackers of that unit, perhaps with Garvin sprinkled in here and there on passing downs.

And from the sounds of it, we should also expect to see a Sean Spence very similar to the one that we last saw nearly two years ago, a heat-seeking missile of a linebacker who always seems to know where the ball is and how to get there in a hurry.

The Steelers figure to get their first real look at their 2012 third-round pick after two years of waiting, and you can  bet that they will make good use of him this year wherever and whenever they can, even with Timmons and Shazier ahead of him.

Despite spending his Monday afternoon running with the likes of Cameron Heyward and Jason Worilds, however, you can count on the majority of the 24-year-old’s time this year to be spent running up and down the field on Danny Smith’s orders. And that alone should be a sight to see after such a long wait.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Paddy

    He’s the type of man any coach needs on his football team

  • Kurt Williams

    Great for Spence and the Steelers.

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  • Bill Sechrengost

    With the depth they have at LB, it is hard to see a guy like Zumwalt making the 53-man roster, especially with the amount of practice time he has missed. I see the Steelers keeping 9 LB’s on the roster: Jones, Spence, Timmons, Shazier, Worilds, Moats, Williams, Garvin, and Carter. I would think that Zumwalt is a good candidate for the practice squad.

  • steeltown

    I think you’re right, but Zumwalt might have a hard time even making the PS at this point, especially if Howard Jones doesn’t make the 53man

  • steeltown

    V.Williams and Spence as our 2nd Team ILB unit… very nice

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I agree. I hated to leave Howard Jones off that list, but it would be really hard for him to make this team, unless there would be an injury. I can’t see them keeping two LB’s on the practice squad, but it could happen.

  • steeltown

    Yea its happened before, but something tells me we might be keeping 2OL and possibly 2DL on the PS so those open spots are limited. In that scenario my vote goes to Howard Jones

  • dkoy85

    Thought the same thing.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I would agree with the 2 DL, but not the 2 OL. I think the only OL they’ll keep on the practice squad is Elkins, since I think Wes Johnson will make the 53-man roster. I don’t think they have much else on the OL that is worth keeping. I think Mike Adams and Bryant Browning are not eligible for the PS, if cut, so that doesn’t leave much. I think Chris Hubbard may just make the 53-man. If not, he could stay on the PS again this year.

  • steeltown

    I guess it depends on how many OL make the 53man, if they keep 9OL then yea they’ll only need to keep one guy on the squad

  • blackandgoldBullion

    The first time I see Spence fly across the field and hammer some guy, I will be jumping up and down, cheering him on. He’s gonna thump some guys.

  • Bill

    I keep thinking this guy might make a hybrid LB/safety on the field. All that I’ve heard about is his nose for the ball and athletic ability, seems to scream that. If indeed he’s as capable as reports indicate, it would me a mortal sin to keep him on the bench for more than 30% of the time.

  • Ken

    Extremely nice! V. Williams seems to be having a really good camp after being good as a rookie. Vince is probably about to pull his hair out listening to everyone talk about Shazier and Spence when he was the starter last year. It’s amazing how fast we went from no depth to not enough playing time for all these good players.

  • Josh

    One would hope that there’s some rotation, like the Farrior-Timmons-Foote scenario of a couple years ago. Except with fewer bald guys.

  • joed32

    Nice!

  • Melly

    I would much rather have a guy like Jones(who I think could have some upside) vs Carter(who hasn’t done A THING in 3yrs)!!

  • Runamok

    Bill I think the same thing. I’m not very impressed with Shamarko. I’d like to see them think about having Spence lose 10-15 lbs n line up as Troy’s replacement next year. His speed and hitting combined with Mitchell… Could be terrifying for opposing QB’s

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I actually agree with you, but I think they will keep the experienced guy over the new guy, especially with the lack of depth at OLB.

  • Matthew Marczi

    One thing Zumwalt does have going for him is versatility, which could help get him on the practice squad over a more one-dimensional player like Howard, especially if he also shows he can be the special teams player we all assumed he will be. It does sound like Howard could have a decent shot of unseating Carter though, who is already SQUARELY behind Arthur Moats.

  • steeltown

    I would be trilled if H.Jones beats out Carter and in turn we hang onto Zumwalt by way of the practice squad

  • Ryan

    Just to play devils advocate Worilds hadnt shown anything in 3 years either. I personally dont think Carter is gonna breakout but hey its happened.

  • SOOO excited to see him in action! What a story! I remember how excited I was while watching his highlight reel after drafting him. I didn’t realize he’s only 24 years old after two years in the NFL. And like it was stated above, just watching him on special teams this year will be awesome to see!

  • colingrant

    He doesn’t know it yet, but his climb from the depths of physical and emotional injury that few humans return from (professional football) may prepare him to be a motivational speaker at some point. His injury was historically bad with most characterizing any measurable comeback as miraculous should he pull it off………………and he pulled it off. It’s a story to be told.