In the win this past Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie safety Shamarko Thomas was the field for 50 of the 65 defensive snaps and that of course was a season-high for him. Following Thursday's practice, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau explained why the Syracuse product played so much.
"Probably, because Baltimore went all three wide receivers pretty much," said LeBeau. "They probably didn’t have ten snaps of regular or extra tight end guys. Shamarko is in that package. He’ll play every snap if that’s what we get."
Thomas lined up all over the place in the game and that included him playing in the slot as well as a deep safety, which is something we haven't seen a lot of so far this season. The rookie registered six total tackles in the game to go along with his one special teams tackle and LeBeau critiqued his performance on Thursday.
"I think he’s growing. He’s a physical guy," said LeBeau. "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."
Thomas was targeted four times in the game and all four were completed. However, those four receptions only amounted to 19 total yards with 10 of them coming after the catch. Against the run, Thomas really played well and three of the run tackles he was in on resulted in a total of four yards gained.
There were a few times that Thomas looked like he might have been out of position and he failed to play through the whistle on a play deep in the Steelers own end, but that is likely to be expected from a rookie. In case you forgot, fellow safety Troy Polamalu made similar mistakes during his rookie season.
The Steelers are slowly digging themselves out of the 0-4 hole they dug themselves to start the season and it is refreshing to see them do it with several rookies contributing heavily on defense. Thomas is going to be just fine and the trust that LeBeau already has in him is proof of that.
"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," he said.