Pittsburgh Steelers safety Will Allen left the team’s season opener late in the game after suffering a concussion, but he seems to have been able to bounce back quickly, clearing the league’s concussion protocol, as he was listed as a full participant on the first practice report of the week.
That means he should figure to slide back into the starting lineup as the starting strong safety, which is where he started in the game, and where he is now listed officially on the depth chart following the game.
It was the plan for third-year safety Shamarko Thomas to start at strong safety this offseason, but following a preseason in which he simply made too many mistakes for the Steelers to trust him as the last line of defense, the coaching staff made the switch prior to the season opener.
The young safety did see a small handful of snaps, however, most of them coming on the Patriots’ second drive of the game as a deep safety pairing. In fact, he did make a tackle on the Edelman end around for a first down.
He played five snaps in all, though only one came after Allen left the game. it was Robert Golden, a fourth-year former undrafted free agent, who logged a couple of dozen snaps on the back end, both replacing Allen, and some for Mike Mitchell, as well as playing in the quarters package as a third safety.
But that could change against the 49ers, the Steelers’ next opponent. Golden is more of a free safety, which the coaching staff evidently felt would be a better counter to the Patriots’ offense. He also has a bit more size to counter their tight ends in the passing game.
But the 49ers are a run-heavy team, which could play into Thomas’ favor, if indeed the Steelers actually use much of their sub-package looks on Sunday, as they are already a team more inclined than most to stay in their base defense. If they are preoccupied with stopping the 49ers’ running game, one would figure that they will be spending a lot of time in base again.
Had Allen not had a quick turnaround from his concussion, it’s likely that Thomas would have been called upon to enter the starting lineup, as that is where he spent most of the offseason, as well as the preseason, right up until the opening of the regular season.
But the Steelers also seemed to be open to the idea of rotating their personnel, even on the back end, so I can’t help but wonder if they have any intention of spelling either Allen or Mitchell to allow Thomas to play some without having to turn to sub-packages.
The way that things have gone for Thomas so far is surely as disappointing to him as is has been for those who watched him play during the preseason, but I don’t see the Steelers giving up on him yet. It would be useful if they could find him some snaps in an unsettled secondary.