The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Will Shamarko Thomas be re-signed?
I have been made well aware of the fact that safety Shamarko Thomas doesn’t have a ton of fans on his side four years into his career. It’s actually an ironic change of pace when we consider how many advocated for him year after year insisting that he merely needed to get on the field to demonstrate what he was capable of.
Though he was a fourth-round draft pick, he has been viewed by the team and the fan base through the prism of a third-round draft pick, because that is what they gave up in order to acquire the fourth-round draft pick that they used to draft him in 2013.
That he has been unable to demonstrate that he can be counted upon to serve a role on defense has made the selection, and the trade, look much worse. But all of that is to me immaterial when we weight the consideration of whether or not the Steelers should re-sign him—or, more factually, whether or not he will be re-signed.
I think it’s obvious by now to all that Thomas’ worth is as a special teams contributor, and while not all are ready to acknowledge the significant role that he plays in that area (special teams coach Danny Smith frequently gushes about him, though that is no endorsement given that many believe he should be fired), few can deny that the team’s performance in this area has suffered when he has been injured.
Thomas fell to fifth on the Steelers’ safety depth chart, behind Jordan Dangerfield, so I would have a hard time imagining another team offering him anything more than a veteran-minimum deal. At least with Terence Garvin, the team had him in their goal line package.
Thomas is the team’s best gunner on the punt coverage unit, and I would argue one of the best in the league, as he forces a lot of fair catches. I would like to see him back, but I know that many disagree, and the team may well feel that they have enough safeties who play special teams.