3rd-rounder Spence eager to soak in Steelers' system
Sean Spence grew up in Miami, but the Steelers were always his favorite NFL team. As such, he needed anything but a history lesson after the team issued him No. 51 last week.
“I understand James Farrior wore this number,” Spence said. “He's a great linebacker, but I'm not James Farrior. The things he did I may not be able to do.”
Comparisons to Farrior, who was released earlier this year, are more than just premature, and that explains why Spence was one of the Steelers' more curious draft picks.
The former Miami Hurricanes standout is not playing Farrior's old position, and his selection didn't address a glaring short- or long-term need. But as Hurricanes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said: “I think the Steelers looked at it and thought they were getting a good football player. I think he'll be a good fit.”
The question is where.
The 5-foot-11, 230-pound Spence is a bit undersized by NFL standards, and he is slated to play behind Lawrence Timmons at right inside linebacker.
Nothing is assured next season beyond extensive special teams duty, and that is assuming Spence makes a successful transition from the ACC to the AFC North. Spence's athletic ability and aptitude suggests he could emerge as a key contributor in various sub-packages, including the Steelers' nickel defense.
Spence, an outside linebacker at Miami, has plenty of experience dropping into coverage. Spence also proved to be a quick study at Miami, partly out of necessity.
He played for three defensive coordinators in four seasons, but that didn't stop Spence from leaving Miami as one of only six linebackers to record consecutive 100-tackle seasons.
“He learned what the other guys on the field were supposed to do as well (as his own position),” said D'Onofrio, who coached Spence his senior season. “He's a great kid. Always has a good attitude, a smile on his face.”
Spence, who took part in rookie minicamp over the weekend, shrugged off questions about whether he is big enough to play inside in the NFL. One factor that suggests it won't be much of an issue is the way the game has changed.
“A lot of stuff today is misdirection and trying to fool you or outnumber you one way and then give you a different look coming back the other way,” Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said. “A lot of that requires the ability to read from the linebackers, not so much to get down and stuff a hole. Sometimes, you have to do it on the goal line when you have to take on a big running back. But we're taking on Ray Rice; we're not taking on Jerome Bettis anymore.”
Spence has taken on something as daunting as Rice, the Baltimore Ravens' Pro Bowl running back, and that is a new playbook.
Spence has a couple of weeks to immerse himself in it before the start of offseason practices. The minicamp that concluded yesterday should help Spence when he returns to Pittsburgh later this month for practices that will include more than just rookies and first-year players.
“I think it's a huge advantage,” he said. “You don't want to come out here looking like a lost child in front of the vets and be embarrassed.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ decision for NFL Draft: Pass rusher or cornerback?
- Steelers restructure Gilbert, Mitchell contracts; Pouncey close
- Steelers’ Harrison announces desire to play one more year
- Steelers GM Colbert prepared to look at all options before draft
- Steelers start contract talks with quarterback Roethlisberger