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The 'next man up' mentality is in effect

It's a mentality that is commonplace in the Steelers locker room, one of accountability, being the next man up, stepping up when your number is called.

That mentality paid off big time against Carolina when the Steelers lost three defensive starters to injuries, including linebackers Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier.

The 'next men up' in this case were Arthur Moats and Sean Spence, both who stepped in during the game and are expected to continue to fill the hole if the injuries keep Jones and Shazier off the field for any period of time.

"That is the mentality we have around here, no matter who is in the game, the standard is the standard," said Spence. "That is what Coach (Mike) Tomlin preaches and we have to go out there and give the man what he wants."

Moats gave Tomlin what he wanted when he came in for Jones in the third quarter and responded by sacking Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton.

"It felt good to come in there and have that impact right away," said Moats. "All week you are preparing and hoping to get the opportunity. You hate to see it come from somebody getting hurt, but when it happens you want to make the most of it.

"Every year you are going to have injuries in football and ultimately as a guy who is backing up or rotating in you have to make sure you are always prepared. You are one game, one play away from being in there."

Moats, a fifth-year veteran who is heralded for his intelligence, signed with the Steelers this offseason from the Buffalo Bills just for this reason, to have an impact on the defense. He admits it's never easy in a backup role, but he works all week as if he is a starter and it's paying off now that his impact is being felt.

"That was one of the big things as far as me coming here. I wanted to be able to have an impact," said Moats. "Being able to get this chance is a huge opportunity for me. I want to make the most of it. You have to be ready. If opportunities come and you aren't ready, you are going to get exposed and you don't want that. I feel like I have been preparing every week, I have to continue to do that and build upon it. You have to be able to hit the ground running. I am always prepared, ready to be the guy."

For Spence, getting his opportunity at the expense of Shazier's injury isn't what he wanted, but he understands it.

"It's part of the game," said Spence. "I have been through a lot of injuries and I know sometimes it happens. It's a learning experience and you have to find a way to grow from it. It's very tough, especially guys you care for, go to battle with every day. To see them have injuries, like Ike Taylor, and to see Jarvis go down, it hurt. 

"It's the job we know we have to do. This is what we do for our lives. It's a great job. You have to be prepared and when your number is called execute."

Photos from the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers.

Spence has been down the injury road way too much, missing the entire 2012 season and the majority of the 2013 with a horrific knee injury many thought would end his career. To get the opportunity to see productive snaps on defense against the Panthers, and possibly moving forward, means a great deal to him.

"It's one of the things I have wanted to do since I was a little kid, to play on Sunday Night Football, actually on defense," said Spence. "Those are the things you dream of, pray for and it finally happened.

"I felt like more of a complete player. It's the most I have played since college. I was on all special teams and on defense.  I am very excited. It's a blessing to be out here in itself, I am looking forward to taking advantage of my opportunities."

Spence said the key for him now is to just stay focused, keep working the way he has been, and be ready for whatever the coaches ask of him.

"I prepare as if I am going to play the entire game every day," said Spence. "I just have to continue to stick with that plan and go from there. I have to make sure I am doing my job. It only takes one player to be out of their gap for the ball to find a busted coverage. I need to communicate with guys and make sure I am doing my job. You have to do your job and not anyone else's and you will be fine.

"I am quite sure there are some things I need to work on. I need to put in some extra time in film study and making sure I am communicating with my guys and making sure we are on the same page. I am ready for it."

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