Prior to him suffering an ankle injury in the Week 10 game against the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie safety Shamarko Thomas had played 193 snaps on defense. Since returning from that injury, however, the Syracuse product hasn't played a snap on defense, but veteran cornerback Ike Taylor has seen enough him to think he'll be a major contributor on defense in 2014.
"By the time the end of next season comes, I'm going to say I told you so," Taylor said, according to Branson Wright of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Once Shamarko gets an opportunity to start, ya'll going to see why we call him 'Headache' as a nickname. He's a young explosive guy that can run and hit.
"If you're going to have a knock on him, you may talk about his size. Everybody talked about Earl Thomas' size, but those guys in Seattle have been balling. So a football player is a football player, and that's Shamarko."
The Steelers were able to draft Thomas thanks to them making a draft day trade back in April with the Cleveland Browns, whom the Steelers will close out their regular season against on Sunday. It cost the Steelers their 2014 third-round pick to move up to get him, but because they expect to receive a 2014 third-round compensatory pick for the loss of wide receiver Mike Wallace during the offseason free agent signing period, they were willing to make the deal with the Browns.
Next season, Thomas will more than likely be a starter right out of the chute as it's unlikely that free safety Ryan Clark will be re-signed during the offseason. There's also a chance that strong safety Troy Polamalu might not be back as well if the team is unable to lower his 2014 cap hit by means of salary reduction.
"He's going to be the future," said veteran safety Will Allen, whose return to Steelers in the middle of season has cost Thomas playing time. "Everyone's happy about his potential and what he can do. He's explosive. He can hit. He's going to bring that intimidating factor to the game. It's going to be exciting to see."
Thomas is unlikely to see playing time on defense against the Browns on Sunday as he's again expected to be relegated to only playing on special teams. However, this will likely be the last Steelers-Browns game for some time that Thomas doesn't play a big role in.