Rookie minicamps are a very short first peek at draft picks and undrafted free agents in a very limited football setting. Still, initial observations can portend big things in a young player's future, and so far Pittsburgh Steelers' third-round pick LB Sean Spence is only raising expectations about what's to come for him.
Long-time Steelers scribe Ed Bouchette from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweeted that Spence was the most impressive rookie on the first day of practice, albeit with the "caveat" of it being a non-contact practice in shorts. Bouchette is never one to create hype with hyperbole, so his praise, even with a qualification, is telling.
Scout.com's Jim Wexell was more effusive in his praise after the first day of practice:
"Spence looks more fluid and quick into coverage up close than he does on tape, and that’s saying something."
Spence is wearing former Steeler LB James Farrior's old No. 51, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's beat writer Scott Brown, but he's not lining up at Farrior's old "buck" position. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Steelers LB coach Keith Butler doesn't have Spence there because at 230 pounds, he might not be suited for a position that has to be "bigger and take on the guards more."
Spence doesn't project to plug an existing hole in the starting lineup. His quickness and fluid athleticism in coverage, along with read-and-react instincts that have drawn universal praise, should get him into subpackages on passing downs early in his career, especially if he keeps standing out among the Steelers rookie class and looking even better than he did on film at Miami-Florida.