What does the Pittsburgh Steelers defense need to do in 2015 to be feared again? Steelers third-year safety Shamarko Thomas was asked that very question Tuesday by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com and his answer was short and to the point.
“Like Coach (Tomlin) told us this morning, run stop, that’s the biggest thing,” said Thomas. “Run stop and just hit. The big dudes run around fast and the little dudes lay the hits.”
Thomas, who played just less than 200 snaps on defense during his rookie season prior to going down injured, only played two snaps in 2014 as multiple hamstring injuries resulted in him missing five games and primarily only contributing on special teams.
While the jury is still somewhat out on the Steelers former fourth-round draft pick out of Syracuse, we have seen the “little dude” deliver quite a few hits against the run during the last two preseasons.
“I’m definitely a better player, and a better man,” Thomas said Tuesday about the difference from last year to this, according to Fowler. “I learned from Troy Polamalu that it’s not all about being a better football player, it’s about being a better man. You have to have a sense of focus.”
The Steelers seem to be placing a huge emphasis on stopping the run this coming season after allowing 4.14 yards per carry last season with 11 runs going for 20 yards or more. Judging by the comments made last week by new Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler, we could see the defensive line one-gap even more this upcoming season and should that ultimately happen, the smallish Thomas should get plenty of opportunities inside the box to lay some big hits in the running game.
After all, his nickname is “headache” for a reason.