Spence, playing in a game for the first time in almost two years, found himself overwhelmed by emotion. And the 2012 third-round draft pick admittedly shed tears prior to the Steelers' first exhibition game.
"I had my helmet on trying to hide but I couldn't hold it [back]," Spence told Steelers Nation Radio's Craig Wolfley following Pittsburgh's 20-16 loss to the New York Giants.
Spence did not hold back once he got on the field either.
Starting for the injured Ryan Shazier at weakside inside linebacker, Spence flashed early, pressuring Eli Manning to throw a pass away on third down and later sticking running back Andre Williams after a short gain.
"Made some plays but I want to go back and watch the film and see the things I messed up on and correct them," Spence said. "It was great to get back out there with the guys."
It was a long time coming too.
Spence shredded his left knee in the Steelers' final preseason game two years ago, tearing several ligaments, dislocating his kneecap and suffering nerve damage.
That his knee is no longer an issue -- his first game back offering more proof of that -- is a testament to the grueling work that Spence put in after the 5-11, 231-pounder's career flashed in front of his eyes.
Asked his initial impressions of Spence's play against the Giants, coach Mike Tomlin said, "I wasn't looking directly at him and I think that just speaks to our level of confidence in terms of where he is. It was good to have him back out there and I know he was excited to be back out there. I thought he represented himself in a solid manner."
Spence summed it up best when talking to Wolfley on the field after the game.
"One [exhibition game] down," he said, "three more to go."