As if we didn’t know it already, the decision made Monday by the Pittsburgh Steelers to bring recently released safety Louis Delmas in for a tire kicking visit shows that the team is more than willing to move on from Ryan Clark.
In addition, it could be a sign that the team is not fully confident that second-year safety Shamarko Thomas is ready to step in and fill Clark’s shoes and the same goes for Robert Golden, who was originally signed in 2012 an undrafted free agent.
Thomas, who I believe the Steelers see more as the heir apparent to Troy Polamalu, meaning that he would play in the box more as opposed to center field like a traditional free safety, only played 193 snaps during his rookie season. In fact, our charting project from last season shows that Thomas played 62 snaps as the nickel cornerback in the Steelers traditional nickel sub package and another 122 snaps in the Steelers quarters package as a third safety. In other words, we, as fans, really don’t have a good idea just yet as to whether or not Thomas is ready to play a traditional safety role at the NFL level, because we have yet to see it happen.
After injuring his ankle in the Week 10 win over the Buffalo Bills, Thomas never played another down on defense for the remainder of the season as veteran Will Allen took his snaps. While that’s not a totally damning sign for Thomas, it certainly can’t be viewed as a positive one, either.
Thomas aside, if the Steelers ultimately decide to sign a veteran free agent safety to replace Clark, it shouldn’t have any bearing whatsoever on the upcoming draft as I fully expect that a ball-hawking, centerfield-type safety will be drafted in the first two days. However, to expect that draft pick to start in Week 1 would be asking way too much and thus the need for a veteran to bridge the gap until the youngster is ready.
Will Delmas be the last safety to visit Pittsburgh prior to the draft? Maybe not, however, I do not expect the Steelers will make a run at Bills soon-to-be free agent Jairus Byrd, either. On the flip side, they’re aren’t really a lot of quality free safety-types that are scheduled to be free agents in less than a month, so I’m not sure we can completely rule out the possibility of Clark or Allen being brought back for one more season if a suitable short-term replacement can’t be found.