Each offseason of the Mike Tomlin era has included a trip to Heinz Field where the Steelers conduct one of their 10 allotted OTAs. The one there this past Tuesday marked an anniversary of sorts for Sean Spence, one that didn't go unnoticed.
It was two years ago when Spence, then a promising third-round draft pick, came up with an acrobatic, athletic interception that seemingly captured the attention of everyone who was at Heinz Field that day. Two years later and still in the process of working his way back from a horrific knee injury suffered in the preseason finale later that summer, Spence hasn't forgotten.
"It was actually my first practice in this building as a rookie," Spence recalled just after the Steelers had completed the 2014 version of that workout on their home field. "I remember it was off of Byron Leftwich. It was a great play.
"I remember it like it was yesterday."
Spence has gone through quite an ordeal since then, but he's also made remarkable progress toward a comeback that was no sure thing in the immediate aftermath of the surgery required to repair his knee.
Spence won't yet declare himself 100 percent in his recovery. But if the Steelers had another event scheduled for this Sunday at Heinz Field, Spence is of the opinion he'd be capable of participating in that, too.
"If we had a game, yeah, I think I could play," he said.
He said he's been playing "with the No. 2s" (the second-team defense) during OTAs, but Spence made it clear he isn't coming back just to be a backup at inside linebacker.
"I don't think anybody wants to stay with the No. 2s," he said. "We're all competing as a linebacker group. I trust the coaching staff to make the best decision for this team."
Take a look at some photos of Sean Spence during the offseason workouts.
Although he's designated as a third-year player on the roster, Spence is still waiting to play in his first NFL game, but he's at least been around the past two seasons, and he kept his eyes and ears open while rehabbing his knee.
The experience is paying dividends now that Spence has made it back onto the field.
"It's a big edge," he said. "Especially being around Larry Foote a lot. I was always up under him the two years I had here with him and I learned a lot from him. Being able to sit and watch, it helped a lot."
OTAs will be followed by minicamp and then it will be on to training camp, an event Spence is embracing as "another test for me, another step."
He'll be a confident player when the shoulder pads come on and the hitting commences.
"I think I could be the best," Spence said this week.
On the team? In the league?
"I'll just leave it at 'the best,'" he said. "It feels good to be out here, period. And then to bring it to Heinz Field and practice again with the guys is very humbling, I'm grateful for it. I'm just taking it all in right now."