Training camp is now upon us, in case you have failed to take notice. The Pittsburgh Steelers reported to Latrobe on July 28, and began practicing the following day in preparation for their first preseason game on August 12, and eventually, for the 2016 regular season in April.
Every NFL season is like an investigation of sorts, with the offseason and preseason serving as the fact-finding portion, gathering the questions that are most prudent to ask in order to understand the story of the team in the current season. And it is in training camp that we really begin to start finding the answers to those questions.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in training camp and the preseason looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Can Shamarko Thomas still have a role on defense?
The tenure of Shamarko Thomas on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster has been a somewhat frustrating and tumultuous one, certainly for himself more than anybody else. Though only a fourth-round pick, he was once seen as the heir apparent at the strong safety position.
When finally given his opportunity to lock up the position for himself last year in his third season, he struggled, making too many mental errors, both in practice and during preseason games, for the coaching staff to be comfortable enough to allow him to start.
He fell so far that he not only lost his starting job, but the backup job as well, promoting Robert Golden to that role, and Golden is now in the starting lineup, with rookie Sean Davis having been added to the mix to eventually take over that role, potentially, in the future.
With Davis now responsible for manning the slot following the injury to Senquez Golson, however, that makes it less likely for him to be called upon to draw responsibilities at the back end, particularly if somebody behind them can prove worthy enough to man the position.
That person could be Thomas, who has certainly shown over the past four summers that he has an affinity for hitting, if nothing else. He has also endeared himself on special teams over time, but he no doubt still craves an opportunity to play on the defensive side of the ball.
Another fact that gives him a greater opportunity to compete for a role is the fact that those not already in a starting position are already quite young and more inexperienced than him. Golden is now starting, and Thomas is the third safety with Davis in the slot. Artie Burns and Doran Grant at cornerback have virtually no playing time combined.
Thomas has certainly made his mistakes on the field, but he can’t have wholly eroded his trust with the coaching staff, and if he shows well for himself in August, then there may be an opportunity here and there, perhaps in select packages, for him to contribute in September and beyond.