Steelers' Sean Spence remains on track

LATROBE, Pa. -- Another milestone in Sean Spence's remarkable recovery occurred Monday afternoon when the Steelers linebacker practiced in pads for the first time since shredding his left knee almost two years ago.

Spence said his knee held up well on the first day that the Steelers hit and tackled during training camp. The next step for the 2012 third-round draft pick will be how his knee responds when the Steelers start stringing contact practices together.

The players are off today.

"I still have a long way to go," Spence said.

Not nearly as long as he did after tearing multiple ligaments and dislocating his knee in the Steelers' final preseason game in 2012.

The gruesome injury, which occurred when Spence was chasing a quarterback, put his career in doubt. What is telling about the progress Spence has made as he works his way back to the field: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he didn't even think about the significance of Spence practicing for the first time in pads since his injury.

"We've had a great deal of comfort in where he is for some time," Tomlin said. "I probably went to those feelings of emotion when he came out in the spring and really showed his capabilities in terms of movement and control of body and redirecting."

Indeed Spence took part in all of the Steelers' offseason practices and he didn't show any trace of the injury that had also left him with nerve damage in his left knee. Spence has been playing with the second-team defense and if he can make it all the way back it will only add to the depth that the Steelers have at inside linebacker.

"I know he was glad to be back out there," Tomlin said after the Steelers' first padded practice, "and (he) had a smile on his face."