Jun 17, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Sean Spence (51) participates in drills during minicamp at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Faith, persistence and a whole lot’ta heart.
That’s all I can say about how someone like Pittsburgh Steelers Sean Spence went from having his knee practically obliterated in his rookie season to now starting at inside linebacker just two seasons later. There’s no embellishment in that statement either. Sean Spence was very close to just being done after suffering that knee injury in the final game of the preseason back in 2012. The multiple tears were very severe and docs first thought that Spence would also have extensive nerve damage in that area.
The Steelers kept their faith in Spence after his injury. In a move that showed real class, the Steelers kept Spence around while he healed following his surgery. They could have just as easily waved goodbye and parted ways with now damaged goods. Instead, the Steelers placed Spence on the IR and kept him there until he was ready to start working with the team again.
Sean Spence maintained his persistence by working out as soon as he was cleared to do so. Every so often Steeler Nation would hear from the team that Spence was working with coaches or someone from the media reported that the saw Spence working out. While his body was kept off the field, his nose and brain were in the playbook. He learned Dick LeBeau’s defense by watching. He’s practically a rookie in the sense that this is his first year of being physically eligible to play in the regular season, but his brain has been soaking up the NFL up close and personal for the last two seasons. He’s ready. His presence on the field this season is evidence enough.
Spence has a ton of heart, and it took every ounce of it to get through this trial of waiting. Spence could have quit just as easily as the Steelers could have released him. The mental and emotional toughness that one needs to recover from an injury such as Spence’s while not going insane from either the impatience or the uncertainty of his career is quite impressive. A whole lotta heart.
With rookie LB Ryan Shazier out for some time with his own knee injury (MCL sprain), Spence has moved up the charts and will make his very first NFL start. If you don’t feel elated, overjoyed, and uber excited to see this kid take the field for the first defensive snap against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, then you either have no heart or as much emotional empathy as Rodger Goodell (or are they both the same???).
I can’t wait for Sunday and to see Spence take the field. I’ve been in this kid’s corner since he became a Steeler when drafted. I was devastated when he became injured. I’m pumped to see him on the field. It’s the feel good story of the season for the Steelers. And it’s one that I hope will have a very happy ending. If he plays well enough and has the hot hand by the time Shazier is ready to return, you may see a shift in the depth chart with Spence still at the top.