Steelers WR Spencer Never Wanted to Say ‘What If’

Thursday night could be final shot at NFL for 27-year-old

Josh Rowntree
August 29, 2019 - 12:33 pm
Steelers WR Diontae Spencer at practice in 2019

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

Diontae Spencer is 27 years old. And Thursday night might be his last shot. 

Spencer, the diminutive Steelers wide receiver who was an All-Star in the CFL last season, has shown signs of the dynamic playmaking ability that scored him an reserve/futures contract with the Steelers in January. 

But a lack of production in the passing game has been noticeable, as his only two catches of the preseason came in the opener against Tampa Bay. In all, he has 17 receiving yards, but has taken a pair of end-around handoffs of 19 and 29 yards, respectively. 

He also has a 35-yard kick return and a 38-yard punt return, proving much sought after abilities in special teams. 

When the Steelers take the field for Thursday's preseason finale in Carolina, Spencer will be one of Pittsburgh's players, with a realistic shot at keeping a spot on the team, in need of a a strong showing.

“Every time we step on the field there’s an evaluation,” he said Tuesday after what may have been his last full practice in Pittsburgh. “Through this whole process, I think I’ve done a great job. For me, it’s just being comfortable. 

“Each game, going into it with that sense of just being comfortable and not trying to do too much. I know I’m going to make plays once I get the ball in my hands. Whatever I’m asked to do, on the field, I’m trying to do it 110 percent and do it without making mistakes.”

Spencer is listed at 5-foot-8, 163 pounds. But he has a flair for dominance. While in college, at McNeese State, he once accounted for 365 total yards and five touchdowns, scoring on two passes, two kick returns and a punt return, against Stephen F. Austin in 2013. 

Four years later, after going undrafted, he made a splash in the CFL, going for a CFL-record 496 all-purpose yards in one game.

“Going to the CFL, it gave me the opportunity  to get more tape and just to just go out there and mature,” he said. “Being a mature football player, understanding the nuances of this whole game, the speed of it, everything’s been pretty smooth and it’s been a blast and a blessing.”

Spencer’s odds of making the Steelers’ 53-man roster are not great, but not impossible. Ahead of him are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer. 

He is also fighting for a spot with the likes of Johnny Holton, Tevin Jones and and Trey Griffey. A practice squad spot is an option, but Pittsburgh may be more inclined to use that on a younger player for development purposes. 

“I don’t worry about that,” Spencer said. “I just have to keep faith, believe in myself and believe in what they have in mind. I don’t focus on it too much. It’s not my first go-around. I feel like I’m mentally and physically in a good place.”

Spencer took a gamble heading to the NFL, skipping out on another year in the CFL for a shot to join the Steelers in the spring. Even though Thursday night may be his final team wearing an NFL jersey, he has no regrets.

“This was the best situation for me,” said Spencer, who would sure get an opportunity back in the CFL or the newly formed XFL. “I had a time, in my head, where I was just like ‘if I get this opportunity again, I was going to take it.’ The circumstances had to be right. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, I can always look back and say I tried it. If I didn’t try it, I feel like I would have a huge burden on me, saying ‘what if?’”

Hear more from Diontae Spencer below.