Sean Spence practices Tuesday, the uphill climb for him to make it back isn't over

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

If Spence didn't injure his knee, perhaps he would have earned a starting job last year. The reality is he now has to overcome that injury, but a rookie who's already running with the 1s.

Just like that, he's back.

Steelers linebacker Sean Spence practiced fully today, as noted by BTSC writer Dale Grdnic, one of the rare practices the third-year linebacker has had since August, 2012.

Judging by his fearless nature on the field, even if Spence knew during practice Tuesday, Aug. 28 two days later, he would suffer a tremendous knee injury in a preseason game against Carolina, he would change anything. Even if he was told in advance that afternoon it would be the last practice he would have on a right knee that hadn't been surgically repaired, he may not have approached that game against the Panthers any differently.

But would the Steelers have been a better defense over the last two years?

Veteran LB Larry Foote went down with a torn biceps during the Steelers' Week 1 loss to Tennessee last season, bumping Kion Wilson into in-game replacement, and rookie Vince Williams into an unexpected starting role. Maybe that would have been Spence's spot, a year after the team made the smallish but fierce Miami linebacker their pick in the third round.

Perhaps he learned a lot his rookie year, taking a few lumps as rookies do, but making a few plays, like athletes similar to Spence do. Maybe the Steelers find their future linebacker last season, and because of that, pass on Ryan Shazier in this year's draft - or don't get a shot at him because they're drafting in the 20s somewhere.

Maybe none of it matters. Spence likely noticed the Steelers had Shazier starting opposite Lawrence Timmons at the first practice of the first OTAs session Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Regardless of what happened, two things are certain; Spence is back practicing fully, and the uphill climb for him to earn a roster spot after adversity few athletes ever have to face has begun.

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