Steelers Already Reaping Benefits Of 2014 Draft With Shamarko Thomas

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin always likes to talk about how the second year is often the year that coaches expect a player to show the greatest improvement.

This is the crucial second year for a large core of the Steelers’ roster, which will likely include four starters in Jarvis Jones, Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, and Vince Williams.

By the way, just take a moment to think about how the Steelers are projected to have a draft class that includes four starters by year two.

But there’s another player about whom the Steelers are also expecting significant growth in year two, even though they made sure through free agency that he would not be counted on to be a starter just yet.

That would be, of course, Shamarko Thomas, on whom the Steelers used their 2014 third-round draft pick (via trade) to acquire last season.

Thomas, a somewhat height-deprived strong safety, started out his rookie season seeing frequent action in sub-packages, playing well over 100 snaps by the time he injured his ankle later on in the year.

By that point, the Steelers had already re-signed Will Allen, who was more than ready, willing, and able to fill in as the dime back, and thanks to his performance, the team didn’t need to turn back to Thomas.

Like Wheaton, his rookie status hindered his playing time because injuries hindered his practice time, which, for players in their first season, is a direct correlation to actually getting on the field.

2014 is a new year, and I don’t expect Thomas to be playing behind Allen again. While Allen is by far the more veteran player, both in terms of accumulation and time spent in the Steelers’ system, Thomas is the more versatile option.

Which is why, even though he was already on the roster for a while, Allen didn’t take over for Thomas until he was injured and missed practice time, setting his development back and thus preventing him from playing, by the coaches’ standards.

That shouldn’t be the case anymore after a year under his belt. He should no doubt be at least the sixth defensive back, both the third safety and the fourth cornerback depending on the requirements of a given play. That’s quite a beneficial feature to have in one and the same player.

Remember that as you watch the third round of the upcoming draft pass into the compensatory section without the Steelers making a pick, because that pick is already on the roster with a season of polish under his belt.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Derick L Young

    I liked the Thomas pick then and now. I had my doubts with the Landry Jones pick.

  • steeltown

    There’s always a list of players that one has heading into a draft..or atleast players one sees as having a lot of potential but for some reason being overlooked because of height, weight or possibly 40time, sometimes labeled draft steals or hidden gems or whatever.. two of those players on my list last year – Markus Wheaton and Shamarko Thomas… I was a happy camper

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Landry is a slow-cooking pick. We won’t know what we have in him until he develops. And thankfully, we won’t need to know. In a few years, he might become the long-term backup. In five years, he might compete for the starting job. It’s just too early to tell. I’m just glad they got younger at the position. Batch and Leftwich needed to hang it up.

  • kev4heels

    Completely agree with this sentiment. I tried to look at this way last year and feel even better about the idea now. Good move by the FO IMO.

  • srdan

    Man, I really like this guy. I am expecting big things from him, and I think it’s justified. He is electric. The fact that he was used like a corner says a lot about his abilities. I want to see more of him this year, a lot more.

  • Nolrog

    Considering where the Steelers were, the fact that they had just signed Gradkowski and what we thought could happen this off season* (and now has actually happened) that pick was just terrible.* Last year during the draft, we could have projected Ziggy would be gone and Sanders would be gone and that the safety and corner positions needed help (because Clark, Troy and Ike were all long in the tooth.) Going after a 3rd string QB, who will not be the guy to replace Ben (the guy to replace Ben may not be in college yet and Landry will be gone from the roster before Be is.) Still just a very puzzling pick.

  • Steelers58

    This is the best part of being a steeler fan. Rebuilding on the fly. We r gonna restock that defense this yr. and we will be dominating in a few yrs after that.
    All we need do do is trade back about 6 spots and grab Louis nix.
    We need to dominate the line of scrimmage once again.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Respectfully, if the pick was so obviously bad, they would not have made it. The Steelers picked Jones knowing he would not play in 2013. They obviously see something in him they want to develop. Would he have been my pick? No. But I’m not a GM, am I?

    I’m just saying it’s way too early for anyone to make a call on how “terrible” a pick was this early.

  • 804Stiller

    I agree with all of these statements. Ironically, Shark’s combine numbers were off the chart and the film supported it. Plus, he has versatility to play some man in the slot. The concussions and his stature seemed to scare teams off. I’m not as high on Landry but it’s water under the bridge now. Anything we get from him would be a plus.

  • Will Hammer

    Landry was nothing more than a back up pick . Younger guy who can help later .

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Both you guys make valid points

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I think it’s important to remember that Shamarko can actually play some CB.

    He ran a 4.37 forty with a 1.52 split. That’s faster than almost any CB in the draft. There’s no reason why he couldn’t fill in as our #3 or #4 CB in a pinch.

    By comparison, Troy Polamalu ran a 4.35.

  • steeltown

    Agreed. The hopes are he will take over the #2 role when Gradkowski’s contract is up. You said it right, we needed to get younger at the position. The Patriots have drafted 3 QBs in the 3rd Rd during Brady’s tenure and not with hopes that they would replace him, its just something that smart Teams do, get deeper and younger at EVERY position. Also, I think it was a value pick, which no one ever talks about..Landry’s college production speaks for itself, I think the Steelers saw him still hanging around at the backend of the 4th Rd and just pulled the trigger.

    Time will tell if he ever becomes a solid pro player, but you have to get younger at all positions.

  • dgh57

    Seems like the team really is high on Shark because their actions speak for themselves. When was the last time we traded a future draft pick and a higher future round pick than what Shark was taken at? Shark was on my wish list last year and glad we drafted him and see good things coming from him.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Don’t forget the new nickname I heard Ike mention: “Headache”. Shark is going to be giving opponents some headaches the way he thumps them. Looking forward to it. Mitchell is a hitter too. Imagine if Spence could make it all the way back! I look forward to a day when the D will be feared once again. Give me some of those hits I can feel all the way up here.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I’ve always felt they planned to pick Barret Jones in the 4th and had a collective brain fart when they missed him. I love the Thomas pick but would much rather be getting a project qb in this draft.

  • Melly

    they still could of gotten a QB to groom in the 6th or 7th. had they not signed Grad to a 3yr contract, I could understand drafting a QB in the 4th. with all of the depth concerns that nolrog mentioned, it seems like a wasted pick.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    In all fairness you never get a higher pick in a future draft since you have to pay something for the right to get a player a year early.

  • Melly

    he’s a big hitter. I cant wait for when he plows a guy and the officials call a phantom helmet to helmet! I enjoyed that about clark’s game. but the officials would flag him more times than not for nothing!!!

  • T R

    Yal also have to consider by history they didn’t know if Ben would make it all 16 games. We was fortunate. That’s why pick looked bad. But they didn’t want to be in the leftwhich, batch situation again

  • SumnerYoung

    The backup QB job should be open competition this year. I don’t think Landry can win it, but he should be given a fair opportunity to compete for it against Gradkowski in training camp and preseason.

  • joed32

    They’ve done that quite a few times with zero results. Dixon, St. Pierre, T. Martin, Spence Fisher, Jim Miller, Alex Van Pelt, maybe they wanted something a little better this time.

  • colingrant

    Matt – I appreciate your term, “height deprived”, as opposed to the often used media and fan term “undersized”. Most players referred to as undersized, aren’t that at all, but are just lacking the ideal height (but not weight) for that particular position. Furthermore, I find it interesting that when players lack height, pundits cite their challenges, but rarely their advantages. Obviously, he’ll have his hands full covering 6’3″ wr’s and 6’5″ tight ends. In short space however his short compact build will be a difficult target to block when coming up for run support and more importantly, short players are typically very good tacklers.

    Low base = leverage = strong tackler.

    Ray Rice was considered under sized, but at 5″8″, no one could cover him due to his unique change of direction ability. Also, people slid off of him while tackling because of his power and the very small target area due to his short stature. Those are real benefits that are typically not factored by professional and amateurish followers. The majority of NFL plays take part inside 15 yards, where physicality and short bursts of speed and quickness rule. He’ll thrive in this area furthermore, he has the speed and change of direction to play in space. His challenge will merely be defending balls that are high pointed by receivers. This can’t be underestimated as high pointed balls are prevalent in the red zone.

  • Melly

    I hear ya. But Dysert was still there in the 7th and I believe T.Bray went undrafted?! I just think a 4th Rd for a guy who may never play was too high?!? Only time will tell.

  • 20Stoney

    I agree with you about him being a slow cooking pick. What I don’t agree with is a team with so many holes making that pick. That’s a luxury pick to take a backup qb in the 4th round. Backup qbs can be found on the street or in free agency. I’ve beat this dead horse before, but they had their “younger qb” in Hoyer and they chose to keep Leftwich over him just months before. Now if they see Jones as a potential replacement for Roethlisberger, then maybe it makes sense, but the only explanation I’ve ever heard is getting younger at the backup position.

  • dgh57

    I’m talking about what we had to give up to get Shark. We traded at the time a future 3td rd pick to the Browns. We could of traded a late rd. pick last year or a future late rd. draft pick this year or even a comparable 4th rd. pick this year but we ended up upping the ante to a future 3td rd. pick(one rd. before Shark was taken). This tells me they think highly of S. Thomas!

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I understood. It’s possible we could have traded everything you mentioned instead of a third but or?

    My point was that no one trades the 140th pick in one draft for the 140th pick in a future draft or anything less. You should assume about a round cost for the right to get a pick a year early.

    They could possibly accept a collection of lower picks but you have to pay to move up in the draft and you also have to pay to move up in time.

  • James Kling

    Well, that’s optimistic.

  • pittsburghjoe

    I agree, I just cant seem the need for the investment last year. I am guessing Ben has 5 years left. All you needed at the time was a veteran back up. I could have seen next year spending a 3rd round pick on a guy and giving him a couple of years to develop. They need guys that can play now…not slow cookers.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Nice post, Colin.

  • dgh57

    My guess is the Steelers wanted to move up a few spots to draft Thomas and could only find the Browns willing to except a trade. The Browns let it be known what the asking price would be and we accepted. Teams usually trade up and down in the same draft year so paying the price in next years draft was a steep price to pay. So they must of wanted Shark real bad. I do fail to see how anyone is getting a draft pick a year early.

  • pittsburghjoe

    I am thinking that the “height deprived” Jason Verrett may be the best CB available in the draft.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I get it. You would have traded the Landry pick plus to move up. I think the plan was not to move up but to basically get a third round value in 2014 by trading that pick for a 2013 4th rounder and using the year of development to increase to value to a 3rd round equivlant. You could argue that a good 4rd pick with a year of training is more valuable to the steelers than a 3rd round rookie. I think they liked Thomas enough to use that formula to make the decision.

    Getting a pick a year early refers to getting a pick in exchange for a pick in the following years draft.


    I couldn’t agree more NoIrog, a ‘slow cooking’ draft pick is a luxury that a team with needs cannot afford, especially if he ‘might’ be a backup in 5 years!!
    Good God, what we could have done with that pick instead of L Jones. What a waste!!


    Stoney, you da man!! I said basically the same thing, and then the comment on Hoyer (who I hated seeing go away, especially to the Browns), you nailed it.
    Just think if we had Hoyer as our #2 when Ben retires. I like Gradkowski but I think we will regret letting Hoyer go, perhaps as early as this upcoming year.

  • GoSteelerz

    Jordan Dangerfield could also end up being a good signing for us. He’s out of Towson, and was on a practice squad last year, he’s only 23, and I really liked his college highlights. Some of those highlights were against larger college programs like LSU, in which he showed well for himself. If he ends up fulfilling the promise he showed in college, we may be set at the safety position for quite a while. He and Thomas would be a heck of a hard hitting tandem. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Thomas and Dangerfield do this year!


    Well said, hopefully the Steeler higher ups have their heads out of their $%&#@@ and realize we have glaring needs. We don’t need projects, we need playmakers!


    If they were smart, they would have got younger and deeper at the cornerback position.

  • David

    You people kidding?? Look at past 4th round pick by Steelers.Most are waste. In fact most mid to late rounders by all teams are So called wastes.
    Think bout this, Look what Arizona gave Phily for Kolb. Look what Houston gave Atlanta to get Schaub. Look what KC gave New England for Cassell. Look what Seattle gave to get Green Bay’s Flynn. Hell look what Oakland gave Cincy to get Palmer.
    Also, you may get your next franchise QB. It’s Never a waste to draft QB’s. If I was a GM I would draft one every other year. If you hit on one you’re golden.
    With all that said I thought there was better QB choices when Steelers selected Jones. Oh well.!!!!

  • David

    playmakers rarely come in mid to late rounds. And it’s lucky when they do.


    Disagree, ask Antonio Brown if he agrees with your assessment! In fact most rosters are comprised of mid round picks.

  • David

    Agreed Brown is a playmaker. But we drafted Sanders in 3rd and Brown in 6th. True most rosters are comprised of these mid round picks, but vast majority are role players. Mid to late rounds are rolls of the dice.
    We should be more angry with the Steelers misses in the first and second rounds. And NOT resigning the third rounders than arguing bout mid rounders.

  • steeltown

    No doubt.

  • steeltown

    I think the plan is CB in this draft and more focused on than any other position, they’ll strike early and again somewhere mid Rd, obviously WR and DL are important as well but..


    They should of cut Troy and taken the full cap savings of over $8 million.
    You traded to get Shamarko, let him play. The Steelers could of filled another starting position with the extra cap savings.

    In a few more years, Shamarko will be a Free Agent, only starting 1 year.

    Keenan Lewis/Jason Worilds redux.


    Much agreed, the Steelers have missed on several top picks. Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams proving that point. Really seems as though they really don’t have a plan going into the draft.

  • Rob Dove

    D Young summed it up nicely, if we did not take jones we might still have Thomas and the third rounder this year and a comp pick. Hopefully jones turns into something for the future otherwise it will turn out to be as good a pick as Tony Hills and Limas Sweed.

  • Roosevelt

    Gilbert & Adams are victims of extreme expectations so young & constant change in O Line coaches. Last year’s draft is not as rich in CB’s as this year. . We are alright where we stand

  • alex

    with Mitchell running at 4.4, thats some speed to cover the middle of the field for some time

  • Scot Hickerson

    Landry Jones is a lot better than people think and should have been a first round pick and he got screwed in the draft.. He was a bargain in the 4th and the Steelers see Landry as their Aaron Rodgers and will be Ben’s Replacement.
    Here is why I think so:

    The Steelers don’t pay top dollar for players toward the end of their career.
    The Steelers don’t have the room to raise Ben’s Cap Number Significantly
    The trade talk for Ben this last year.
    The stalling in giving Ben a new restructured contract this year

    Landry gives the Steelers plenty of options of what do with Ben. I think he will Beat out Gradkowski for the back up job this year. If Landry develops he gives them a good safety net moving forward toward the end of Ben’s Contract. With a couple of years of work Landry can be a good starter. I think you will see Ben Traded after 2014.