With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Shamarko Thomas.
Boy, have the Steelers, and their fans, been waiting a while on this one. Prematurely heralded as ‘the successor’ when Pittsburgh traded a future third-round draft pick to grab him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, fourth-year safety Shamarko Thomas is trying to rebound from a gut-churning season in which he lost his chance at a starting job and may now be fighting just to keep his roster spot.
Should he retain his roster spot, it figures to be based primarily on the fact that he has proven himself to be an above average gunner on special teams, in spite of the odd rash of fair catch interefence penalties that he accumulated last year.
When it comes to playing on defense, he has largely been persona non grata since the second half of his rookie season, during which he suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Will Allen, who also took over what was to be his starting strong safety role last year.
As a rookie, Thomas was inserted into the slot because the coaching staff valued the ability to cover that he showed in college, and he had his ups and downs as would be expected. But since that injury, he struggled to find any opportunity to get on the field with Allen in front of him.
After he struggled in training camp and in the preseason last year while working with the starters, including a string of mental errors, many of which could be traced back to working in the Cover 2 look, he not only lost his starting job, but the backup role as well, which fell to Robert Golden.
Golden started three games due to an ankle injury Allen suffered, and now he figures to enter the starting lineup, at least keeping the seat warm until rookie Sean Davis is ready to take over. Thomas, meanwhile, will likely have to settle for toiling away on special teams and just trying to show enough to put the coaches’ trust back in him that he can play if they needed him to.