Although he experienced plenty of action in sub-packages early during his rookie campaign, I knew that Shamarko Thomas did not contribute much on the defensive side of the ball after he sustained an ankle injury in Pittsburgh’s Week 10 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
In fact, the then-rookie safety did not log a single snap on the defensive side of the ball in any of those contests according to Scott Brown of ESPN.com.
To be fair to Thomas, veteran Will Allen did a decent enough job in his place to earn a role in Pittsburgh’s sub-package schemes after he was re-signed at mid-season. But seriously, zero snaps?
I fail to see how Dick LeBeau could not figure out how to work in the tenacious and pugnacious safety into any sub-package situation. In addition, I am not exactly sure why Thomas was not used in place of the slow as molasses Ryan Clark in certain passing situations. Moreover, why Thomas wasn’t used for help in run support in sub-packages or even used to blitz off of the edge also puzzles me.
Of course, with LeBeau running the show, the fact that Thomas was essentially glued to the bench for the last half of his rookie season did not come as much of a shock to me. With veteran pacifiers like Clark and Allen at his disposal, LeBeau could keep Thomas sidelined unlike other rookies like Vince Williams and Jarvis Jones.
I should add that the only reason those guys even saw the field during their rookie campaigns was due to the rash of injuries and the lack of veteran personnel at their respective positions. Had Larry Foote and LaMarr Woodley not been hurt, there is no way that Williams or Jones would have played as much as they did or turn improved as much as they did as the season progressed.
Thomas’ lack of playing time last fall aside, I do hope that the Steelers and their coaching staff are willing to give the former Syracuse star more chances to shine in their secondary during the 2014 regular season. Clark and Allen will both be free agents this March, and Thomas should be in line to play a significant role in Pittsburgh’s defense if one or both players depart.
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