Reserve offensive lineman Guy Whimper has come off the bench the past two games to fill in for injured starters. On Sunday, he’ll start for the first time as a member of the Steelers against the New England Patriots.
Whimper, signed in the spring to provide depth at tackle, will start at right guard for David DeCastro, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury in the game last week against the Oakland Raiders.
Whimper filled in at right tackle against the Baltimore Ravens after Marcus Gilbert had to exit with a quad injury. He filled in at guard last week after Ramon Foster left with a concussion. Whimper also left with a knee injury but returned to practice this week.
Whimper, who previously played for the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars, has started 22 games in the NFL but all 22 came at tackle.
Whimper lined up at guard for the first time in training camp this summer when the Steelers had some injuries and the coaches wanted to see if he could be position-flexible.
“I’m still getting used to it,” Whimper said. “I didn’t play guard until I got here. It’s a new experience. It’s helping me out to better understand the game, looking at it from a different perspective. Playing guard and tackle is two different things even though they’re right beside each other.”
Whimper said the biggest adjustment for him has been how quickly things transpire in the interior of the line.
“The biggest thing is how close the defensive tackle is to you,” he said. “As a tackle, you’ll have a [defensive end rushing on the outside], so you have a little bit of space. At guard, it’s happening right now.”
The Steelers must decide by 4 p.m. Wednesday whether to activate linebacker Sean Spence to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
Spence, who had a major knee injury 14 months ago, was taken off the physically unable to perform list three weeks ago and was allowed to practice with the team for the first time.
Spence was injured in the final preseason game last year against Carolina. He tore the anterior collateral and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee.
His kneecap was dislocated and there was damage to the peroneal nerve, which could not be surgically repaired and had to heal on its own.
“I’ve been practicing and they’ve been evaluating and we’ll go from there,” Spence said.
If Spence is placed on injured reserve, he would not be able to practice with the team the rest of the season. He would be allowed to continue his rehabilitation at the team’s facility.
If he was activated to the 53-man roster, the Steelers would have to release a player to make room.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.