Missing Pieces 2016: DT Cam Thomas

Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into training camp a bit under a month from now, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.

Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.

The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2015 to 2016, which seems to be increasingly common for them in recent years.

This one will no doubt be celebrated a fair bit, but yet another missing piece of the Steelers’ 2016 roster that was part of the team for the past two seasons is defensive lineman Cam Thomas, who was the team’s primary starting left defensive end in 2014, and also filled in for Steve McLendon at nose tackle.

Signed to a two-year, $4 million contract after the team lost two defensive ends in free agency and accepted a reduced role for a third, Thomas was brought in to be a stop-gap starter until rookie Stephon Tuitt was up to speed, and at least as far as the coaching staff was concerned, that took three quarters of his rookie season.

Because of the way that Tuitt exploded onto the scene last year, and due to certain expectations from other potential defensive ends in the chain that didn’t pan out, there was some debate as to whether or not Thomas would even make the roster in 2015, but he did show some improvement after working with Tuitt and others with a defensive line coach in the offseason.

Last season, he was limited to less than 200 total snaps, and that was with Tuitt missing two games. He started the first game, but the Steelers had McLendon start the second game, moving him over to defensive end, such was their confidence in Thomas.

The Steelers made no effort to re-sign the seventh-year veteran, who spent his first four seasons with the Chargers, but he did eventually sign with the Rams, where he will play in a 4-3 front as a defensive tackle reserve, if he makes the roster.

Instead, they signed Ricardo Mathews, another former Charger, whose time with the team actually did not overlap with Thomas’. In addition, they are hopeful that they will get something out of second-year defensive end L.T. Walton. Either way, it appears that they are still thin along the defensive line, though Javon Hargrave will ideally take up some snaps in sub-packages for the starting ends.

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