I thought that the Steelers would wait to address their safety-needs until the 4th round with Shamarko Thomas in my final mock draft.
Lo and behold, look what happened?!
I for one am extremely stoked that Colbert & Co. moved up in Round 4 to acquire the talented strong safety from Syracuse. While the move cost the Steelers their 3rd round pick next year, I must remind you readers that they are likely to receive a 3rd rounder as compensation for the loss of Mike Wallace in next year’s draft. Plus, it wouldn’t shock me in the least if Pittsburgh received a compensatory 4th rounder for Keenan Lewis too.
My thoughts on the trade aside, I am downright excited to see that Pittsburgh’s brass pulled the trigger to take a player who I believe could be a perfect fit as a strong safety in their defensive scheme.
Although Thomas’ frame is a bit small (5’9″ 213 lbs.), he is a vicious hitter who can cover large amounts of ground. He can play “in-the-box” and hold his own against the run, and his 40.5″ vertical leap is definitely a plus. A four-year starter with the Orange, Thomas racked up 85 tackles last season to go along with 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 3.5 tackles for loss.
While some might compare Thomas to Troy Polamalu, I liken him more to Bob Sanders in the regard that he throws his body around and is always willing to mix things up against the run and the pass. Of course, I hope that Thomas is able to stay healthier than Sanders did during his terrific, yet injury-riddled career.
Thomas is also a very mature person who has dealt with an immense amount of personal tragedy over the course of his life, and is definitely a young and high-character guy who Pittsburgh’s locker room desperately needs at the moment.
Coming into today, the Steelers needed to have a replacement in line for Polamalu at the strong safety position, and they were able to get themselves tremendous value when they took Thomas. Shamarko will likely sit for a year or two, learn the defensive scheme, learn from one of the best defensive backs coaches in the league in the form of Carnell Lake, be a special teams demon, and then hopefully be ready to contribute on the defensive side of the ball.
Final Grade: A-
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