While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the pessimistic side of the coin.
Question: Should the Steelers keep Cam Thomas on the roster for depth?
If the responses to the optimistic complement of this question are any indication, then the ensuing discussion should be fairly straightforward and overwhelmingly in agreement. But I would caution, at the start, that there is, in fact, a very really possibility that Thomas is still on the roster in 2015, regardless of what the fan base thinks of his abilities.
Thomas seemed like a bit of a knee-jerk signing by the front office after the Steelers quickly lost two defensive ends in free agency from their top four rotation of the year before. Certainly, his performance for the Steelers in 2014 would not have changed any minds on that front.
It remains unclear to me whether or not the Steelers actually signed Thomas immediately with the thought that he would begin the season in the starting lineup, but there was little question that he would, at best, be a stop-gap at the position, and in fact, he didn’t even last a full season, as the Steelers chose to insert their rookie starter of the future, Stephon Tuitt, at his position for the final four games of the regular season.
Even though he was put into the starting lineup, he was still substituted liberally, particularly in the nickel defense, and in fact he wound up playing not much more than 400 snaps on the year, despite suffering no injuries. That’s not exactly the playing time of a starter, which had been more formal and nominal than actual.
When he did play, though, there were often problems, even though many would be unwilling to admit that he did make some plays throughout the season. But his play perhaps caused more harm than good overall. On stretch plays, for example, he would get tied up and prevent those on the far side of the play from flowing to the ball, opening up running lanes.
While he would not be retained as a starter, and thus would not be counted on to be a core part of the defense, the fact that Thomas is scheduled to make a base salary of $2 million puts him at very serious risk of being released.
The general consensus, indeed, seems to be leaning that way. It’s just too much to pay for a lineman who will only see 150 or so snaps, and asking for him to take a pay cut would be an unusual move, so the money is on the Steelers taking the money and letting the player go.