Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, third-year linebacker Sean Spence will make his first career start as rookie Ryan Shazier will miss the game with a knee injury. If not for him suffering a serious knee injury of his own during the final preseason game of his rookie season, Spence would have likely already been long entrenched as the starter alongside Lawrence Timmons and as a result, Shazier may never have been drafted.
Even as recent as May, the Steelers weren’t totally sure if Spence would be able to complete his comeback from a damaged peroneal nerve, that often results in a condition known as drop foot. Not only has he been able to return and make the final 53 man roster, Spence also currently leads the team in special tackles with three heading into the fourth game of the season.
In the 35 snaps that Spence played Sunday night against the Carolina Panthers after Shazier left the game injured, the former third-round draft pick out of Miami registered three total tackles with two of them being one-yard stops of fullback Mike Tolbert.
The young linebacker moved around without issues against the Panthers and his confidence is growing weekly as his knee injury slowly fades out of sight in his rear-view mirror. Thanks to all of his downtime over the course of his first two seasons in the league, he really should have a great understanding of the Steelers defense and that’s an area that Shazier still lacks in.
Starting Sunday, Spence can begin to make it hard for Shazier to get his starting job back once he is healthy. While the Ohio State product is only considered to be week-to-week right now, the way he was walking immediately after spraining his knee made it look like he could be down a few weeks.
For now, Spence is the next man up for the Steelers and he’s worked very hard to earn that distinction.