Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Preseason Spotlight: Sean Spence

Mike BatistaContributor IAugust 13, 2012

July 28, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Sean Spence (51) jogs across the field during training camp at Saint Vincent College. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie inside linebacker Sean Spence put together an eye-popping highlight reel as a Miami Hurricane.

It wouldn't have been realistic to expect the third-round draft pick to be all over the field like that in the Steelers' preseason opener at Philadelphia.

For a rookie, the first preseason game is like the first day of school. It's impossible to label Spence a Pro Bowler or a bust based on his performance in a game that doesn't count.

Spence's first action against opposing players is worth a look, though, because the Steelers need an infusion of youth on defense, and Spence was the Steelers' top defensive selection in the 2012 NFL draft.

Spence entered the game on the Steelers' second defensive series, which came in the second quarter, and played through the third quarter.

He seemed to cover receivers well but struggled in run support, which is not surprising for a rookie who's a little undersized at 5'11", 231 pounds.

Spence showed he's not too small to take down tight ends, albeit after they had already made a catch.

He made two tackles in the game, according to NFL.com. The first came in the final minute of the first half. Brett Brackett caught a five-yard pass on second-and-10 and tried to get out of bounds to stop the clock, but Spence wouldn't let him. The Eagles eventually punted.

In the third quarter, Spence covered Chase Ford on second-and-12 and yielded a six-yard reception. He didn't allow any yards after the catch, however. Then on third-and-6, Spence showed his pass-rush potential when he broke free and nearly sacked Nick Foles.

The Eagles' rookie quarterback got rid of the ball and completed a pass, but it went for no gain, and the Eagles punted.

Later in the third quarter, Foles threw two long touchdown passes on two consecutive plays.

It's as plain as day that second-year cornerback Curtis Brown was the one burned on those touchdowns, and it's been widely reported by the Pittsburgh media, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

However, football is a team game. None of the 10 other guys on the field for those plays gets a pass.

And that includes Spence.

On the first one, a 70-yard hookup with Damaris Johnson, Spence was blocked by a tight end on the pass rush.

On the second one, Spence dropped into underneath coverage when Mardy Gilyard caught a 44-yard TD pass from Foles.

There wasn't much Spence could do about that, but he could have done more to prevent running back Bryce Brown's 33-yard gain later in the third quarter. He could have been in position to stop Brown for no gain, but a blocker nicked him just enough to take him out of the play.

Spence also had a tough series stopping the run in the second quarter. He made a bad read on the first play of the drive, an eight-yard cutback run by Dion Lewis.

Later in the drive, Lewis gained 12 yards up the middle. Offensive lineman Mike Gibson's block allowed Lewis to run right past Spence.

One of Spence's best plays came on his last snap of the night.

Eagles running back Chris Polk was stopped after a one-yard gain on third-and-8. It looked like Spence made the tackle, even though Corbin Bryant was credited with it, according to NFL.com.

Statistics in preseason games don't matter, anyway.

Spence's most important accomplishment in the game was staying healthy, because there's still plenty of hope that he'll be credited with his share of tackles in the future.