End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Cam Thomas
Position: Defensive End
Experience: 5 Years
I purposely skipped over Cam Thomas yesterday so as not to overlap with other articles on a similar subject recently published, but today is Thomas’ turn for his exit meeting, and let’s just say the Steelers didn’t really get their return on investment.
That’s not because he didn’t play enough snaps. In fact, he started at left defensive end for most of the season, even if he was rotated out liberally for Brett Keisel in pass rushing situations.
The issue, of course, came when he was on the field, where it seemed the more he played, the worse his problems were, which suggested to me that a role more suited to him would be as a rotational player, rather than as a starter. That is the key to his future with the team, now that the Steelers have already installed Stephon Tuitt into the starting lineup.
Whether or not the front office envisioned Thomas as even a stop-gap starter for 2014 remains unclear, but the fact remains that the Steelers really had no other options at the beginning of the season, with Tuitt still learning his position and the coaching staff wishing to keep Keisel from overextending himself.
Thomas, therefore, saw a healthy amount of playing time, particularly early in the season, despite his struggles on the field. While he already offered little as a pass rusher—which is not surprising given his size—his run defense was about as bad as any Steelers defensive end in recent memory.
Thomas struggled in particularly when being asked to move laterally. The opposing offensive line had little troubling hooking him and preventing him from getting going side to side, which would jam up the defensive line and prevent the linebackers from flowing to the ball, resulting in a successful play.
He was also moved off the ball with surprising frequency considering his size, while offering little in the way of the pass rush. But every so often, a time or two throughout the game, Thomas would make a play to put on tape and keep the coaches happy.
It wasn’t until three quarters of the way through the season that the Steelers were finally comfortable enough to make the move from Thomas to Tuitt. Given his salary on the books for 2015, it’s hard to see the team keeping him around in a reserve role for that money, which could be used more prudently elsewhere.