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Steelers notebook: LB Sean Spence joins team

Chris Adamski
| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 6:03 p.m.
Steelers linebacker Sean Spence tackles Titans fullback Jackie Battle for a loss during the second quarter Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers linebacker Sean Spence tackles Titans fullback Jackie Battle for a loss during the second quarter Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn.
The Bengals' George Iloka watches as Steelers receiver Antonio Brown holds onto the ball after a helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone during the fourth quarter Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Brown scored the game-tying touchdown on the play.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Bengals' George Iloka watches as Steelers receiver Antonio Brown holds onto the ball after a helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone during the fourth quarter Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Brown scored the game-tying touchdown on the play.
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster lays out the Bengals' Vontaze Burfict during the fourth quarter Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster lays out the Bengals' Vontaze Burfict during the fourth quarter Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Steelers safety Mike Mitchell pumps up fans before a game against the Bengals Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers safety Mike Mitchell pumps up fans before a game against the Bengals Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, at Heinz Field.
The Bengals' Josh Shaw is off-sides, as Steelers kicker Chris Boswell attempts a field goal in the final seconds Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Bengals' Josh Shaw is off-sides, as Steelers kicker Chris Boswell attempts a field goal in the final seconds Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Newly signed inside linebacker Sean Spence said he rotated in and out of the first-team defense with Arthur Moats, who moved over from outside linebacker. He said he also took snaps on special teams and the scout team.

Spence, a 2012 draft pick who left the Steelers after the 2015 season, had been out of work since Oct. 3, when he was released by the Indianapolis Colts.

To say he was anxious to rejoin the Steelers is an understatement.

“When I got the call, I was ready to book my own flight,” he said.

Moats said outside of scout team, he did not get any practice reps Wednesday at outside linebacker, a position he has played throughout his four-year tenure with the Steelers. James Harrison was the second-team right outside linebacker.

The 39-year-old Harrison has not been activated for a game since Oct. 29, and he did not get into the game that night in Detroit. The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has not appeared in a game since Week 7 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He has played 29 snaps.

The Steelers over the past month typically have rotated in their No. 2 outside linebackers for a series or two during games.

Sutton in same role

Two days after making his NFL debut during the second half of the win in Cincinnati, Cameron Sutton said nothing changed in his role at practice. The rookie cornerback took reps with the first-, second- and scout-team defenses, splitting time with Coty Sensabaugh.

A third-round pick who was added to the active roster two weeks ago, Sutton replaced Sensabaugh on Monday after Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green had a big first half.

Sutton also confirmed he took punt-return reps in practice Wednesday. Antonio Brown has been lifted from return duty because of his toe injury, and Eli Rogers re-gained that job. Sutton said that there hasn't been additional emphasis placed on him returning punts.

Sutton was a punt returner for three seasons at the University of Tennessee. Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers generally have avoided using defensive players in that role.

Injury report

Tight end Vance McDonald practiced for the first time in any capacity since before the Nov. 12 game at Indianapolis, during which he suffered an ankle injury. He was a full participant Thursday.

Starting safety Mike Mitchell also returned to practice after not participating at all last week and missing two of the past three games because of an ankle injury.

In addition to Joe Haden (broken leg) and Ryan Shazier (spinal injury) not practicing, Tyler Matakevich also did not practice two days after suffering a shoulder injury not long after replacing Shazier against the Bengals.

Matakevich said he has been wearing a shoulder harness because of the wear and tear and plans to continue wearing one once he returns. He wouldn't specify the nature of his injury.

“The shoulder just went,” he said. “It's unfortunate, but we're doing everything to get me right back out there.”

For the Ravens, Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley did not practice because of a neck injury, and starting receiver Jeremy Maclin was limited because of a back injury. Backup linebacker Za'Darius Smith (shoulder) also did not practice.

Men with hats

With the Steelers practicing two days after playing Monday night in Cincinnati, coach Mike Tomlin gave them a light practice. No pads and no helmets, a practice called “hat day” for the lack of official head gear.

“For everybody it was clutch, having a short turnaround,” Mitchell said. “I'm super happy coach threw us a bone. We have to give it back to him Sunday night.”

Staff writer Joe Rutter contributed. Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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