Steelers' Spence Suffers Setback

Sean Spence impressed the training staff during his return to practice Wednesday, but a broken finger has set him back.

PITTSBURGH -- Sean Spence had the Steelers' training staff in a state of excitement with his performance at Wednesday's practice. But Spence also broke a finger that day, and it's costing him time he doesn't have to waste.

Spence missed Thursday's practice, and then skipped Friday morning's workout to have his hand X-rayed. Mike Tomlin wouldn't speculate as to how much the injury will cut into the three weeks the linebacker has to practice before the Steelers must decide whether to activate him or put him on injured reserve.

Spence, of course, tore ligaments in his left knee last preseason and also suffered damage to the peroneal nerve. The Steelers were told by nerve doctors last February that Spence would never be the same, but after 10 months in a boot Spence began working on his own field at St. Vincent College and his progress impressed the training staff.

Their hopes escalated with Spence's work the first five weeks of this season, and so he was activated from the PUP list.

His performance Wednesday for the scout team at his first practice was called "phenomenal" by one team source, who added: "He has everything back but his burst, and if that nerve keeps coming back the way it has been there's a chance he can play this season. I'm keeping my fingers crossed because there's no one else you would rather root for. This guy shows up every day and puts in long, grueling workouts and he never, ever complains."

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau expressed similar sentiments when he said, "It's great [to see him back on the field]. I had a special feeling yesterday when he stepped on the field and in uniform. You know what that young man has been through, and the work that he has put in. He is going to be a success in life, and in all probability, a success in the NFL. He is a special young man."

The enthusiasm for Spence, though, was kept in check by Tomlin.

"It was just a Wednesday practice. It definitely wasn't NFL football," Tomlin said. "He did a nice job in practice but I don't want to mislead you. You know how it is: It's a Wednesday practice. Wednesday practices, from an intensity and speed standpoint, are not NFL football. He represented himself well for a Wednesday practice, but that doesn't mean he's ready to go."

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