Diontae Spencer hopes big plays for Steelers in preseason opens NFL eyes
Diontae Spencer didn’t play in the first half of Saturday’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, so he told himself to make the most of every touch.
Spencer knew he would be handling the returns for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half, so he told himself to be ready to be successful whenever he got an opportunity, even if he didn’t have a catch.
When the Chiefs punted to Spencer, he darted right, made one defender miss and then cut to the outside and slipped another tackle on his way to a 38-yard return to the Kansas City 47.
“That was my job, to come in and start the offense off in good field position,” Spencer said, “and I felt like I came in and did that.”
A 5-foot-8, 170-pounder who spent four seasons in the CFL, Spencer has a resume as an explosive playmaker. That’s especially true as a return specialist. He averaged 11.3 yards on punt returns with two touchdowns and 22 yards on kick returns.
“That’s what I do: I make plays,” Spencer said. “When I settle down and get a feel for this game and how fast the speed is, it’s going to come. It’s going to come to me. I just don’t want to press it, press it, press it. I felt like that’s what I was doing last week. This week, I just felt a lot better. I was able to have some good plays, some good exposure plays. Hopefully, I can carry that on to the next one.”
Spencer’s next play involved a carry, as he ran an end-around 19 yards to the Kansas City 29 in the fourth quarter. Three plays later, Devlin Hodges threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson in the 17-7 victory over the Chiefs at Heinz Field.
The 27-year-old Spencer realizes he faces long odds to make the Steelers, as veterans Johnny Holton, Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer have NFL resumes, and Johnson was a third-round draft pick. All four also are vying for slot receiver/return specialist roles.
As much as Spencer’s ability to break a big play opened eyes, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was blunt when asked if Spencer has done enough to earn a higher ranking on special teams.
Tomlin’s answer: “No.”
But Spencer knows he put plays on film, whether that’s for the Steelers or another NFL team. And he plans on making more plays when given the opportunity.
“Any position I’m at, it’s all about making plays and trying to be successful,” Spencer said. “That’s not my job to determine. If I can go out there and make plays, there’s always a spot for me.
“Last week was my first NFL game. It took me awhile to get here. There were a lot of emotions running through my head. This week, things started to slow down. I was kind of myself a little bit, going out there and playing fast and not thinking too much.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .