It might have come to a shock to you, just as it did to me, to see Shamarko Thomas see his first snaps in well over two months in Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He officially played two snaps and was scheduled to play another until a Ravens’ false start negated it.
Mike Tomlin was asked during his Tuesday press conference what compelled him to give Thomas playing time.
“He’s a guy that does a few things well on 1st and 10, particularly in the run game We wanted to highlight that, utilize that. We always looking to be inclusive in terms of the number of guys we can utilize in our defense. That’s just the latest example of that. We’ve infused Brandon Boykin into the mix over the second of the year. We’ve infused Robert Golden into some defensive packages more over the second half of the year.
I think that’s what you do this time of year. It provides something fresh, it provides an opportunity for someone, it provides a look that’s not on video. Those are all reasons why you include new people and new schematic approaches as you play this time of year.”
Indeed, all three of Thomas’ appearances came on 1st and 10, according to our charting from the game. Thomas blitzed on each of his snaps, one on a run, one on a pass. He became the nickel corner, temporarily displacing Boykin. They were his first defensive snaps since November 1st against the Cincinnati Bengals.
This, of course, wasn’t supposed to be a season to get excited about Thomas playing two snaps. He was envisioned to be the starting strong safety, the heir to Troy Polamalu the moment he was drafted, but quickly was shuttled to the end of the bench before the first regular season game took place. And while he’s shown to be a competent special teamer, mental mistakes aside, this wasn’t the return on investment fans were angling for.
With the team likely to invest in another strong safety during the offseason, and Golden having the best chance of becoming the starter in 2016, it seems Thomas’ best chance of playing in the future would come in dime packages in whatever capacity Keith Butler chooses to in the future.
Thomas has ten tackles and a fumble recovery on the year. He’s played 20 snaps on defense, a season high of seven in that aforementioned Bengals’ game.