Last offseason, Kevin Colbert and company invested a two-year, $4 million contract in a defensive lineman who was thought to be able to play both the five-tech defensive end spot along with the nose tackle position at a considerably decent level. Of course we’re talking about Cam Thomas, who may become obsolete in the Pittsburgh Steelers defense come the start of the regular season.
After an underwhelming 2014 campaign, is Thomas’ 53-man roster spot in jeopardy? Is he on the hot seat? Steelers fans nationwide have had their pitchforks out, anxiously waiting for the news of Thomas’ release. This time has not come yet, but it may as the offseason progresses.
Thomas is owed $2 million this season and may become a cap casualty when the Steelers start to extend a few of their top priority players who are due for an extension. Until then, his presence isn’t hurting the team. When Thomas was signed in the 2014 offseason, he was thought of to be a depth piece; the backup to Steve McLendon at nose tackle and a rotational defensive end. Where we stand now, Daniel McCullers has cemented his self as McLendon’s backup after decent play which showed progression as the season went forward. With that said, Thomas has lost a niche in terms of what he can offer the Steelers; he is no longer as versatile as he once was.
Here as we stand in May, the Steelers have brought in and retained a number of defensive ends to push the 53-man and practice squad competition. Defensive line coach John Mitchell personally asked for Clifton Geathers to return, that speaks for itself. Also returning is Ethan Hemer and Joe Kruger, who both will be competing for a rotational defensive end spot. Matthew Marczi did an article on these two and it can be found here. Hemer has spent time on the practice squad and has the third more Steelers’ experience as far as backups go. Kruger has added weight to become a 3-4 end but has yet to take an NFL snap. A new face to the Steelers, but not the league, is Matt Conrath, who spent time with the St. Louis Rams and played on a deep defensive line. At 6’7” 306lbs, he is an interesting name to watch out for. Conrath even made Alex Kozora’s 53-man roster prediction, along with Geathers, beating out Thomas.
As far as the draft goes, there are two names to add: Dominique “Niko” Davis and L.T. Walton. Davis was signed as a UDFA from Liberty and he will have to climb a steep hill to make the practice squad. The Steelers used their 6th round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft on Walton and are excited about his future.
With being a potential cap casualty, the elimination of his versatility, the immense competition of known and unknown guys and the most important factor: poor play, Thomas may indeed become obsolete in the near future. You may want to keep your pitchforks handy, but as previously mentioned- until Thomas becomes a cap casualty or gets beat out, he stays on the roster as the only veteran backup who has Steeler snaps under his belt.