During the Pittsburgh Steelers mandatory mini camp last week, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau made it a point to praise safety Shamarko Thomas and linebacker Jarvis Jones when asked if it was too soon to tell if any of his young players had distinguished themselves yet throughout the offseason practices.
"I really like our young safety from Syracuse [Shamarko Thomas] also," said LeBeau. "He’s come in here just like Jarvis [Jones] and worked hard. They’re both learning the defense, and they’re not going to learn it overnight. I’m pleased with where they are."
Thomas, one of two fourth-round draft picks this past April, has reportedly been in the hip pockets of veteran safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark since being selected and that is perfectly fine with the duo, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
"Troy and I have asked for years for a guy to mentor," Clark said. "Some players feel like they can play forever. We understand it is not going to be that way. We want to see somebody take it over and do well."
Polamalu was impressed by Thomas right from the start and talked highly of his new protégé way back during the Steelers first OTA session back in May.
"He\'s a great, great kid," said Polamalu. "Very humble, willing to learn and what\'s nice is he\'s got people around him that are wanting to teach him. Everything that I can give him, all of the experience of football, all I have, and I tried my best to convey that to him to keep him from maybe having to overcome a lot of the mistakes that I\'ve had in my career."
While Polamalu is trying to throw as much as he can at Thomas prior to training camp, he did say last week that teaching the complexities of the Steelers defense to a first-year player is similar to teaching algebra to basic math students. However, according to defensive backs coach Carnell Lake last week, Thomas appears to at least be understanding some of the knowledge that is being imparted to him.
"Shamarko\'s coming along," said Lake. "Right now we\'re just trying to get him comfortable with the play book, so we can utilize the talents that we saw on film when he was at Syracuse. Right now, I\'d say that Shamarko is at the point now where he\'s not thinking as much as he did when he first got here and hopefully by the first preseason game, I think you\'ll see flashes of his skill set."
The Steelers veteran safeties both know that they\'re not going to play forever and with Clark currently entering the final year of his contract, he is essentially teaching a player who could ultimately make him expendable as soon as next season. That is a true sign of selflessness, but it is also the Steeler way that we have come to expect.
Both Clark and Polamula most certainly would like to add at least one more Super Bowl ring to their collections before retiring and by having Thomas ready should either of them go down next season with an injury will undoubtedly improve their chances of getting one in 2013.