When the Pittsburgh Steelers used their third-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft to select Sean Spence, it was believed that he was intended to be the next Steelers draft pick to become great playing linebacker.
Yes, I believe that he is going to become a great Steeler. I am just not sold on his being a linebacker.
Make no bones about it, Spence was a great addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, if you look at him compared to the other linebackers, he really doesn't measure up:
LaMarr Woodley: 6'2", 265 lbs
James Harrison: 6'0", 242 lbs
Jason Worilds: 6'2", 262 lbs
This pretty much rules out any speculation that the Steelers have any intentions on moving Spence outside.
He simply doesn't have the frame for the position.
Lawrence Timmons: 6'1", 234 lbs
Stevenson Sylvester: 6'2", 231 lbs
Larry Foote: 6'1", 239 lbs
Now, if you look at Steelers.com, they have Spence listed at 5'11" and 231 lbs.
Sorry, that isn't true: Spence played last year at Miami at 217 lbs.
There are two reasons in my mind as to why Spence had such a successful career at The U.
First of all, he's lightning fast, especially for his position. I don't care what his times were, he is fast on the field.
And secondly is his technique. Watch his tape, and you will see that Spence not only flies to the ball, but he wraps his arms around ball-carriers and drives them to the ground, as one is taught to do since Pop Warner.
There was a lot of speculation when Spence entered the draft that he may have to move to strong safety if he was going to play in the NFL. Steelers fans already know who is manning that position right now, and his name is Troy Polamalu.
Polamalu is a game changer. He is without question the top strong safety in the NFL now, if not ever. What he brings to the game is smart play, fantastic speed, an uncanny ability to get to the ball carrier and the ability to make plays whenever they are needed.
Just like Sean Spence when he played at Miami.
The Steelers drafted Spence not only to make him a linebacker, but to make him the strong-safety/inside-linebacker hybrid that Troy Polamalu is.
As wonderful as Troy Polamalu has been over his career—and I don't believe that you will find many people who would not agree that he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer—he is 30 years old.
Yes, Polamalu has a few years left, but what better way to prolong his career than to find a player that is similar in size, speed and ability?
The Steelers did that with Sean Spence.
I am not saying for one minute, though, that Spence is going to replace Polamalu.
I believe that Polamalu will stay at safety for another two years, and then when his speed starts to diminish, the Steelers will move him to inside linebacker and Spence into the role that Polamalu has had through his career.
The Steelers understand what they have in Troy Polamalu, and if you watch Spence on tape at Miami, he looks very similar to what Polamalu did when he was at USC.
Spence has the potential to be great. But in the long run, his days at the inside linebacker position may be tied to Troy Polamalu and what the Steelers do for the rest of their starting safety's career.