When the Pittsburgh Steelers originally signed free agent defensive lineman Cam Thomas this offseason, there were no concrete plans about how he would be used. He was signed to a modest contract in order to compensate for the fact that the team had three defensive ends hitting free agency.
The team didn’t manage to make any other moves throughout the course of the offseason to fill the void left by Ziggy Hood and the fact that Brett Keisel was no longer a starter, however, so Thomas has been the starting left defensive end all season, aside from the two games in which he started at nose tackle due to injury.
The Steelers will likely be without their starting nose tackle again this week due to injury, but from the sounds of it, Thomas won’t be the one to start there.
Instead, he’ll likely stay where he played all of the last game, at left defensive end, which was the first time all season he didn’t move inside during a game.
Thomas did not technically start this game because the Steelers opened in their nickel defense on the first play. They quickly moved back to their base defense from there, however.
On the third play of the opening drive, the New York Jets ran off right tackle on Thomas’ side of the field. The offense ran misdirection by motioning Percy Harvin from the right, which drew the defense in that direction. The right tackle was able to catch Thomas inside, giving Ivory room to run off the edge for six yards.
After the Jets line cut off Stephon Tuitt in the red zone for a 12-yard gain down to the four, the Steelers reverted back to their base defense, with Thomas back at defensive end. This time, he won his individual battle with the right tackle, gaining the advantage with strength, turning his outside shoulder and assisting on the tackle in the backfield for a loss of one.
The Jets defense recovered a fumble later on in the first quarter, but the Steelers got to Michael Vick on first down for a sack. Thomas was cut blocked at the line, but Vick was flushed right to him and he and Jason Worilds were able to make the stop for a sack, though it was a minimal loss of yardage.
Midway through the third quarter, Thomas made what seems to be his once a game play that keeps him on the field when the Jets ran a direct snap to running back Bilal Powell. The line was off balanced, with the left tackle shifting over to the right side, and they proceeded to pull the left guard around the right side.
Powell was trapped inside, with the offensive line looking uncomfortable in their unnatural positions, and Thomas was able to take advantage of that, coming off the left tackle to make the stop.