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Thread: Shamarko Thomas' impact still slow to develop for Steelers

  1. #1
    Legend hawaiiansteel's Avatar
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    May 2008
    Hawaii 5-0

    Shamarko Thomas' impact still slow to develop for Steelers

    Shamarko Thomas' impact still slow to develop for Steelers

    By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    The Steelers inserted a rookie linebacker onto the first-team defense in the first week of spring workouts. Ryan Shazier, the team's first-round draft choice, and not incumbent starter Vince Williams took the reps with the starters.

    And while it's completely plausible defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will change his mind between now and the season opener Sept. 7 against the Cleveland Browns, it was impossible to ignore how the youth movement on defense appears to be happening only in select places.

    With veteran safety Troy Polamalu absent in the first week of organized team activities (OTAs), it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the coaches to see what they had in second-year safety Shamarko Thomas.

    But when the first-team defense lined up, 11-year veteran Will Allen was taking Polamalu's reps. Thomas, a fourth-round pick a year ago, was taking reps with the second team.

    Thomas wasn't just any fourth-round pick. The Steelers traded away their 2013 third-round draft choice in order to move up in the fourth round to get him. He was expected to be a big part of their future. And perhaps he will be.

    But for now, he continues to learn behind more established veterans.

    "I'm not disappointed," Thomas said. "I'm just here to compete. It's coach's decision at the end of the day. I'm just here to work every day, keep my head down and just grind."

    Thomas' rookie season was slowed by an ankle injury. He played in defensive sub-packages for the first eight games before injuring his ankle in the ninth game against Buffalo.

    While Thomas was out of the lineup the next two games, Allen played well and the coaches decided not to give Thomas his job back after he returned from the injury.

    "It definitely slowed me down," Thomas said of the high ankle sprain. "Injuries happen. It's football. My mentality is to come back stronger and that's what I'm doing."

    While Thomas worked mostly at strong safety behind Allen in the first week of OTAs, he expects to play both safety positions and the slot cornerback position throughout the spring and training camp later this summer. He was exposed to all three positions as a rookie and he does not have a preference for any of the three long-term, although it is assumed he will eventually replace Polamalu at strong safety.

    "Whatever coach wants me to be," Thomas said. "I'm just a football player. I'll play strong, free, nickel, corner, whatever you want me to play. I just want to be great at whatever position they put me at."

    While there has been a youth movement in the front seven of the defense, Thomas finds himself the young buck in an experienced secondary. Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor are entering their 12th seasons with the Steelers. Allen has 10 NFL seasons under his belt and third cornerback William Gay seven. Six-year veteran Mike Mitchell was signed in free agency to play free safety.

    It is notoriously difficult for young players to play important roles for the Steelers because the defense is complicated. Thomas acknowledged the difficulties of learning on the fly in his first season, but he now feels more comfortable with his assignments.

    "I've progressed a lot," Thomas said. "I know the whole defense now. Last year I was all over the place. This year I'm settled in, comfortable and I can just play. It's just like college. When you come in your freshman year you don't know the defense and the next year you settle in, fly around and make plays. That's what I'm doing now. I don't have to think no more. I don't have to second-guess myself. I just fly around and make plays."

    Allen has noticed the difference this spring.

    "He knows the defense a lot better and he's playing more confident," Allen said. "That's the jump you have to make from Year 1 to Year 2, to graduate to different levels in the defense. He can make the checks and make the calls. He'll be ready to go."

    Mitchell has been impressed with Thomas' business-like approach.

    "He's a super, super-hard worker," Mitchell said. "That's one of the things I admire about him. You want to teach him stuff. He's a guy you want to teach him what you know because you know he's going to use it to the best of his ability. He kind of reminds me of myself when I was his age. He's a guy you love to be around. His personality is great. He has a good demeanor as far as he approaches to get better every day. It's encouraging."

    Eventually, perhaps as early as 2015, Mitchell and Thomas could be the starting safeties. For now, Thomas will continue to learn his trade behind the veterans.

    "I learned how to be a pro last year," Thomas said. "Now I'm trying to learn how to develop myself. I do cold tubs, stretching, study the playbook and study film. I watched Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark every day. I saw what they did throughout the day and I'm trying to mimic it."


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    2015 play after being drafted in 2013. 3 years later, and probably 1 year until he is a free agent. That dog won't hunt. We can't keep getting a single year of production before they hit free agency. I was excited about this pick. He still could see time in the nickle and dime. I saw him some last season. And he did make some good hits.

  3. #3
    Backup Notleadpoisoned's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
    Thomas will probably turn out to be another Anthony Smith.

  4. #4
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    May 2008
    Can someone remind me why we gave away a 2014 3rd round draft pick for Thomas? This is Keenan Lewis in the making all over again. By the time he is deemed worthy to play he will be a free agent.

  5. #5
    Pro Bowler
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    Apr 2014
    Notleadpoisoned: Why would you say that? Smith had the physical tools but not the mental. He also had a little hot dog in him. I don't see that Thomas has any resemblance to Smith on those points.

    Thomas has one deficiency and that is lack of height. Sanders of the Colts showed that speed and hard-hitting make up for that. It could be a problem if he's pitted one-on-one against tall receivers on fade routes.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Oviedo View Post
    Can someone remind me why we gave away a 2014 3rd round draft pick for Thomas? This is Keenan Lewis in the making all over again. By the time he is deemed worthy to play he will be a free agent.
    He was deemed worthy to play in week 1 last year and got significant snaps until his injury. Will Allen played very well as his replacement and, quite frankly, probably deserves to enter this offseason as the incumbent as the third safety.

    We haven't even hit training camp yet, so any panic is premature.

  7. #7
    Legend Shawn's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    I have no worries about Thomas. I believe he is going to be a real good safety for us. I remember when some of you were saying these same things about Heyward.

  8. #8
    Legend RuthlessBurgher's Avatar
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    May 2008
    Where the Rubber Meets the Road (in NEPA)
    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn View Post
    I have no worries about Thomas. I believe he is going to be a real good safety for us. I remember when some of you were saying these same things about Heyward.
    Yeah, that was this time last year, with two seasons under his belt instead of just one so far for the Sharknado.

    Ruthless 2017 Mock Draft:
    1.30 ILB Zach Cunningham 6'3" 234 Vanderbilt
    2.62 OLB Jordan Willis 6'4" 255 Kansas State
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    3.105c DE Tanoh Kpassagnon 6'7" 289 Villanova
    4.135 CB Rasul Douglas 6'2" 209 West Virginia
    5.173 RB James Conner 6'1" 233 Pittsburgh
    6.213 SS Lorenzo Jerome 5'10" 204 St. Francis
    7.248 TE Michael Roberts 6'4" 270 Toledo

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  9. #9
    Hall of Famer
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    May 2008
    Bustamarko.... (I'm being facetious b/f anyone jumps on me)

  10. #10
    Hahaha the first week of OTA's just ended and we're already complaining about a second year guy not running with the first teamers? It's June 2nd. LOL.


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