Today was the day linebacker Sean Spence has waited over a year for, the chance to finally get back on the football field with his teammates.
Spence suffered a severe knee injury during the 2012 preseason, missing the entire year and spending the first six weeks of this season on the physically unable to perform list. But after uncountable hours of rehabilitation, Spence was back at it, taking part in individual drills during Wednesday's practice in the team's indoor practice facility. He still hasn't faced full contact, but it's a step in the right direction.
"It felt good," said Spence after practice. "It held up pretty solid. I have to look at the film to get a better diagnosis of it and continue to build. But it's exciting, very exciting."
Spence began running full speed several months ago, and has seen gradual improvement since the start of the season. This is the first he was eligible to practice according to NFL rules regarding the PUP list, and he anxiously awaited the day.
"I feel like I am blessed," said Spence. "I have the opportunity and I am looking forward to it. I thought it was last week (I could practice), but they told me after week six. I jumped the gun but I knew in due time."
He is permitted to practice for three weeks before the team must make a decision to activate him, put him on injured reserve or waive him. Spence is hoping to have the opportunity to play this season, but said he isn't making any guarantees, just waiting to see how things go. The next step will be gaining trust in the knee.
"That is going to be the biggest thing," said Spence. "When you are on the field there is no thinking. When you are rehabbing you have certain landmarks, but when it comes down to playing ball, you just have to go play.
"It's a big step, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I am just happy and blessed I have this opportunity."
Many didn't think he would ever have the chance to play again, as the injury was that gruesome, so much so he only looked at pictures of it a few months ago.
"I never wanted to watch it but I had to relive it," said Spence. "It was bad. I couldn't believe my body made that movement, but things happen. I think it made my mental strength better. Being away from the team, not being able to do certain activities, but I am happy it's over."
Cornerback Isaiah Green has experienced the ups and downs of the NFL more times than he has wanted in a lifetime in just the first six weeks of the season.
Green originally made the Steelers 53-man roster, only to be released a few days later. He was signed back to the practice squad, and then landed on the active roster on Sept. 17. Green was released again after the team traded for tackle Levi Brown, but brought back to the practice squad. With Brown now on IR, Green was re-signed to the active roster.
"I am used to it now," said Green. "But it's something you don't want to get used to. You want to stick on the 53-man roster. I believe my opportunity is coming soon and I will take advantage of it. I don't always want to be the 53rd man.
"I think after the first time it happened I learned a lot about myself being level-headed and having a strong mind. The ups and downs don't bother me because I approach every day the same."
Newly signed tight end Richard Gordon is trying to get his feet wet fast, preparing in case he is called upon this week against the Baltimore Ravens. Gordon was signed on Tuesday, took part in his first practice Wednesday, and is immersing himself in the playbook.
"It's a little work, learning a new playbook, learning the new terminology," said Gordon. "I met with the coaches as soon as I got here. I talked to certain players to learn the terminology so I know what is going on. Hopefully in practice I can work with the offense, special teams, anything I can do to help. I am a blocker. I like to bruise. I can help out on special teams. Whatever I can do, I am going to do."