Sean Spence Says Steelers Defense Not Much Different From When He Left

Replacing Ryan Shazier is an impossible task. But picking someone up who knows the system is a good place to start. That’s why Sean Spence was brought back into the fold. Speaking with reporters yesterday, he says there isn’t much of a difference in the playbook from when he left to today.

“I went to Tennessee for a year and it was pretty much the same thing. I didn’t miss much.”

Spence played under Keith Butler in 2015, Butler’s first year taking over, and then followed Dick LeBeau to Tennessee in 2016. After a brief stint with the Colts, marred by injury, Spence is back in the LeBeau/Butler system.

“Some things here and there,” Spence said when asked about the differences in Butler’s defense. “But nothing that was too hard to pick up.”

It’s likely Spence’s first goal will be on special teams, where he made a living during his first stint in Pittsburgh. Arthur Moats is likely to start at the Mack linebacker Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens. But when the team needed to replace Shazier in the past, they did use a rotation, Spence and Vince Williams splitting time. That can’t be ruled out either for the remainder of the season. Butler hinted as much Thursday afternoon.

While he’s been away from the team, he hasn’t been away from his teammates. Spence said he’s kept in contact with several Steelers.

“Me and AB used to talk at least once or twice a week. Me and Golden talk almost every day. I had a group chat with Ryan and Vince. We trained together in Arizona. So we kept in contact.”

Obviously, Spence is coming in under less-than-ideal circumstances. He called getting signed a “blessing” but witnesses Shazier go down Monday night.

“As soon as I saw Ryan go down, my heart dropped. I felt for him. I saw him grab his back. And then when I saw they had to bring the stretcher out, I dropped to my knees and said a prayer for him before I went to sleep for him and when I got up.”

Though not nearly on the same level, Spence himself came back from a severe injury, tearing multiple ligaments in his knee during the final preseason game of his rookie season. Since leaving the Steelers, he’s started six games, recording 50 tackles and three sacks. He will wear #51, the number he previously donned with Pittsburgh.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Yeshaya

    I’m going to take this a sign for optimism for Shaz. I remember when Spence tore up his his knee so badly that people didn’t know if he be able to walk again. But he battled back to play football. So I’m not counting Shazier out either.

  • nitrous12

    Why didn’t he stick in Tennessee?

  • PaeperCup

    Not sure if that’s a good thing.

  • Doug Andrews

    You make a great point for us Steeler fans to stay optimistic because it worked out for Spence when I had written off his football career. Honestly I’m just praying for a normal family life for Ryan.

  • Ralph Wagner

    Sean Spence Says Steelers Defense Not Much Different From When He Left
    Not so sure that is a good thing. What’s he saying, SOS just another season.

    We’ll know soon enough.

    Go Steelers !

  • Thomas

    Are you kidding? Arthur Moates is not starting lol this is LJ’s role all the way…it’s a battle for top backup behind him in my book

  • Obi Ryn Denobi

    Add water – Instant Veteran!

  • francesco

    That’s all Brady and Belichick needs to know.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    This is best AND worst news I’ve heard in a while.

    The good news is Spence should be able to integrate seamlessly and pick up right where he left off.

    The bad news is it’s the SAME defense. The same defense that gets torched by Tom Brady every single year. I swear Brady knows our playbook better than we do. How about mixing things up a little?

  • rystorm06

    Could be smoke and mirrors, I don’t think Spence or the Steelers want people knowing any information about the Steeler D that they don’t need to. Also if it was no different he’d be probably starting this weekend, but he isn’t.

  • rystorm06

    I think he had a problem with nagging injuries and couldn’t stay healthy. He only started 6 games, but in those games was productive (3 sacks, 3 passes defensed). Hopefully he can stay healthy for us in a shortened season for him.

  • Trey

    I don’t know about you guys but in this ravens game I would sit out all my starters to be honest and have them rest for the real game next week. I would also pull a page from the cheatriot’s play book and poach a LB from the Pats practice squad as well. I know the rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers is big but I don’t want no more of our guys to get hurt. Both games are important but if I had to choose which one has more of an impact it is definitely next weeks game.

  • Alex Kozora


  • Alex Kozora

    I think you’re looking at it too literally. Spence is referring to a lot of the verbiage and pressure packages. If you look at Butler’s defense, you’ve seen it evolve.

  • pittsburghjoe

    just another name…. I was looking at the guys that retired in 2016 to see if there were any names at LB. Jon Beason and Jerrod Mayo were 2. I dont know if either have anything left… but at this point, im in the dumpster behind KFC looking for scraps if you know what I mean. Heck, lets put 100 lbs on Kozora and trot him out there.

  • AndyR34

    That’s too funny! 😂

  • wut

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Have you ever heard of a guy by the name of Herm Edwards? He is now coaching ASU but played n the NFL for the Eagles and was also a head coach in the league. He has a pretty good quote you might want to look up.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    I’m down with it!

  • Mark

    I hope Butler covers both A, B, & C gaps against the Pats to confuse the linemen and rush both linemen up the A gap every play and tell them to get Brady and forget the run! Only rush 3 or 4 against Brady and change up every down who’s coming and who’s covering. The linemen will be totally confused.

  • Lil Smitty

    Wouldn’t it be strange if Sean Spence would step into the position that Shazier had filled, meaning the fast pursuit and coverage LB. That was what the
    Steelers saw in him before he got hurt and they drafted Shazier.

  • FATCAT716


  • srdan

    That boy crazy

  • Steeler Nation!

    Schematically not that different, is what he is saying. The biggest change is better players, not different schemes. As complex as football can become, it’s still not so much about the X’s and O’s as it is the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s.

  • johnhoien

    I’ve said many prayers for Sean as well… Even under the circumstances , very good to have him back on the Steelers.

  • Jim Foles

    Are the Steelers allowed to pick up the top ILB from one of the 31 practice squads?

  • Painipedia

    Welcome back, Sean! You can do it!