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: Shamarko Thomas
Experience: 2 Years
It is by now widely believed that only an interjection by ownership at this point can keep veteran safety Troy Polamalu on the Steelers one more season. Otherwise, he will be released, if he does not choose to retire, which is what the organization is hoping for, according to reports.
The upshot of this is that third-year safety Shamarko Thomas is entering by far the biggest offseason of his career, during which he is expected to take over in the starting lineup for the former Defensive Player of the Year, despite playing all of two snaps on defense a year ago.
The 2014 season did not unfold as Thomas had envisioned it, no doubt. He missed nearly half of it with two separate hamstring injuries that he suffered playing special teams—at which he immediately excelled—which prevented him from practicing.
For a young player, not practicing is often a death sentence, especially when the Steelers had the veteran Will Allen to turn to to fill in at safety. Allen had prior starting experience filling in for Polamalu. Thomas’ playing time was limited to about a couple hundred snaps in the slot during his rookie season.
Still, he was spoken of highly last offseason, which his position coach telling reporters that they wanted to keep him at strong safety and not move him around so he could be solely focused on becoming the player they need him to be there. Which helps explain, somewhat, why he managed just two snaps all season.
Of course, the job is not likely to be handed to him by any means, even if he’ll be given every opportunity to make it his own. If he falls flat on his face during the offseason, the team will have other options—most likely Allen.
But I don’t expect that to happen, if I’m speaking honestly. Our most recent exposure to Thomas may only be the preseason, but he was impressive last August, showing impressive instinctiveness and explosiveness.
These are the qualities that attracted the Steelers to Thomas in the draft, aside from his big hitting. The fact that we have seen that on the field, albeit in the preseason, is a positive sign, but it could all get derailed in a hurry if he can’t figure out a way to stay on the field.