The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to start veteran safety Will Allen over third-year safety Shamarko Thomas Thursday night in their regular-season opening loss to the New England Patriots and during his Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about that decision in addition to what it might take for the former fourth-round draft pick to get back on the field on a regular basis.
“He’s [Shamarko] got to be good above the neck, he’s got to be in a position to make plays and he’s got to be good at communication,” Tomlin said. “Some things we thought Will Allen gave us a better opportunity to do well at. And of course, his experience.”
Thomas had a rough go of it during the preseason and especially when the Steelers utilized their cover-2 defense. Against the Patriots, however, the Steelers barely played cover-2, if any at all, and that in itself shows that the coaching staff doesn’t trust Thomas.
Thomas played all of four snaps on defense Thursday night and all four of those came when the Steelers had their dime personnel on the field. Thomas registered one assisted tackle in the game.
It will be interesting to see if Thomas is able to get on the field more this coming Sunday in the game against the San Francisco 49ers. For starters, Allen suffered a concussion against the Patriots so his status will likely be monitored throughout the week in practice. Secondly, the 49ers like to run the football a lot out of personnel packages that feature two or more tight ends.
If Thomas does one thing well right now at this stage of his career, it’s defending the run in the box. The Steelers will more than likely play a lot of base and dime defense Sunday and should Thomas not see an increase in playing time in the game, you really have to wonder if the light will ever come on for him.