The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Sean Spence
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 4 Years
Fifth-year inside linebacker Sean Spence has spent half of his career on injured reserve or the PUP list, but that half of his career was in his first two seasons, and he has been relatively healthy and active for the past two. And now he is an unrestricted free agent as a player with 13 starts under his belt over the course of the past two seasons—more than you thought, isn’t it?
Spence, who will turn 26 during late spring, has played in 31 games the past two seasons, accumulating 90 tackles and two sacks. As a regular participant on a variety of special teams units, of course, a small handful of those tackles will have come on the coverage teams.
Last season, he started four games in place of Ryan Shazier, although the team often rotated at the position, so he didn’t play 100 percent of the team’s snaps in those games. But in that four-game span, he recorded 24 tackles and a sack, which included eight solo tackles against the Chargers.
The year prior, Shazier had a lot of injury issues and lost his starting spot toward the end of the year, opening the way for Spence to start nine games in his first NFL action after returning from his knee injury he suffered as a rookie.
The team rotated him in and out more heavily in 2014 than they did last year, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise given the fact that he hadn’t previously played in a meaningful NFL game and they were still feeling out just where exactly he was as far as his reconstructed knee and regenerated nerve were. If it was going to affect his performance—or his long-term health—they wanted to err on the side of caution.
That past hasn’t really been an issue for Spence over the course of the past two seasons, however, at least not in an overt sense, as he has not been forced to miss any time due to issues with his knee, and, as mentioned, he has generally been healthy. He missed a game last year due to a rolled up ankle, if I recall correctly.
But one might wonder how much explosiveness and overall speed he might have lost. His work in coverage, for example, has not been what was expected. He has been a serviceable reserve for the Steelers, but if another team offers him some money—he has more playing experience than it might seem—they will probably not fret over letting him go, given the depth that they have, or could have, at inside linebacker.