I think he’s [Shamarko Thomas] growing. He’s a physical guy. That’s what we liked about him. He’s getting more comfortable in the defense and you’re seeing some of that physicality show up. He made several really strong plays, and I’d say he’s on schedule. He’s a young player but I don’t worry about him when he’s in there. I know he’s going to go wrong on some plays because he is new, but he’s going to be a good football player.
-Dick LeBeau (Steelers.com)
Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas saw extensive playing time on the defensive side of the ball last weekend against the Baltimore Ravens. To the former Syracuse star’s credit, he did little to disappoint with his play on the field during Sunday’s game.
Due to the fact that Baltimore used three and four wide receivers, Pittsburgh needed to utilize their sub-package sets with multiple defensive backs. Since Thomas is such a versatile player, he was on the field in those types of situations. Thankfully for the Steelers, their rookie did a solid job and racked up seven tackles.
Despite his smaller stature (5’9″ 217 lbs.), Thomas’ toughness and ability to play multiple positions in the secondary makes him a solid option for the Steelers to turn to in their secondary when opposing teams force the unit to go with their “nickel,” “dime,” and “quarter” packages. His versatility as a run and pass defender have already helped him see the field this fall, and the sky seems to be the limit with Thomas with the way that LeBeau talks about him.
While there are sure to be “growing pains” with Thomas, as well as Jarvis Jones and Vince Williams, it is nothing short of fantastic to see him meeting and exceeding the expectations of the coaching staff right now.
Remember readers, Ryan Clark’s current contract expires after this season. In addition, Troy Polamalu is set to earn $8.25 million in base salary alone next fall. I should add that 2014 is the last year of Polamalu’s current deal to boot.
With their starting safeties likely to be elsewhere by the time that the 2015 season begins, the door will likely be open for Thomas (as well as Robert Golden) to gain more playing time as the season progresses. Moreover, they will likely have plenty of chances to prove to LeBeau and defensive backs coach Carnell Lake that they are capable replacements for the aforementioned veterans as well.
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