Steelers notebook: LB Spence readies for next season
Linebacker Sean Spence was disappointed with the Steelers' decision to keep him on the physically unable to perform list for the rest of the season but said he understands. “I feel like it was the right move,” Spence said. “I felt comfortable out there, and with time I will be back with what I love to do.” Spence spent the past year rehabbing three torn knee ligaments and a dislocated knee cap that caused peroneal nerve damage, injuries he suffered during the final preseason game in 2012. Spence missed his entire rookie season and the majority of this year before finally being allowed to practice three weeks ago as part of being put on the regular-season PUP list. Spence broke his right ring finger after getting it caught in a facemask on the first day back that forced him to miss the following two weeks. Spence practiced last week, but the Steelers decided against activating him to the 53-man roster. “I felt real good for being out of football for 14 months,” Spence said. “I felt at home and comfortable with movements and, (it) gave me a lot of confidence heading into next season.”
• Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas doesn't hold on a grudge against the coach who recruited him to Syracuse — current Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone — even if Marrone chose Nevada safety Duke Williams over him in the fourth round of April's draft. The Steelers drafted Thomas six picks after Williams went to Buffalo. “I didn't get on him about that,” Thomas said. “I realize it's a business. It's not his call. It's probably the general manager's or somebody else's. I don't get mad about that.”
• Jason Worilds is accustomed to rushing the quarterback from the right side and even the left side when he spells LaMarr Woodley, but Worilds is just getting used to a new role: rushing from the inside linebacker position. “I am kind of doing it a little more, and it's exciting,” he said. Worilds, who has started the past three games at right outside linebacker, is second on the team with three sacks and fourth with nine QB hurries.
• Tackles Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and Kelvin Beachum (knee) were limited in practice but are expected to start Sunday. If they can't play, Mike Adams will play left tackle, and Guy Whimper will start at right tackle. Also returning to practice were Ike Taylor (concussion), Heath Miller (not injury related), Fernando Velasco (thigh) and Markus Wheaton (finger).
• Le'Veon Bell's 282 yards rushing represent one of the lowest figures by a Steelers team leader at midseason. He missed the first three games with a midfoot sprain and only now is getting more comfortable with the week-by-week challenges of the NFL. One of the few Steelers players who takes regularly to Twitter, he tweets about the necessity of getter better. “It's reading holes, working on my foot work, working on my hands, pass protection, learning the offense a little more,” Bell said. “There's a lot of things I can go out there and get better at. I looked at my game film against the Patriots and noticed some things I need to work on. And I'll work on that in practice all week.” Buffalo's defense is 17th against the run.
• With Ben Roethlisberger on pace to be sacked a personal-high 62 times, pass protection remains an ongoing Steelers issue. Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who has a $100 million contract, is one of the NFL's premier pass rushers with 11 sacks. He lines up on both the strong and weak sides, often with no apparent pattern. He might be Beachum's worry on one play, Gilbert's on another. “He's a freak athlete,” Beachum said. “He plays very violent with his hands; (he has) great hand usage. It's going to be a great test and challenge. With him and Jerry Hughes on both sides, Kyle Williams (4 sacks) and Marcell Dareus, they have some big guys inside. We have a big fight on our hands.”