Cam Thomas May Be A Contingency Option To Start

This offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have done well in recouping their free agent losses pretty much across the board, for which the front office deserves a tremendous amount of credit. It could be quite difficult playing the reactionary role in free agency by trying to plug a hole you didn’t intend to have.

When Jonathan Dwyer chose to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers aimed their sights higher, and after losing out on a few other names, eventually landed on LeGarrette Blount, who certainly figures to be an upgrade.

While taking hits at wide receiver, losing both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, the Steelers were able to find a new slot receiver and Lance Moore and are taking a flier on Darrius Heyward-Bey. Anything he offers is a bonus.

Perhaps the one area remaining that seems under-addressed as we slowly head into draft season would be defensive end.

The Steelers lost both Al Woods and Ziggy Hood, and it’s no sure thing that they will re-sign Brett Keisel in June for one last rodeo. Most figured it would be a given to retain Cotchery. Not much is a given.

But a rookie defensive end not starting under defensive line coach John Mitchell may be as close as there is to a given, and Brian Arnfelt played two snaps last season while Nick Williams spent the year on injured reserve.

The Steelers did sign Cam Thomas to a two-year, $4 million contract. General manager Kevin Colbert spoke of him as being a defensive end in this defense. Perhaps we’re all underestimating this signing—at least relative to how the Steelers view it.

More to the point, it’s not out of the question that Thomas ends up being one of the starting defensive ends in the season opener. More likely than not, he’ll be lining up with the starters once OTAs begin, and he may never relinquish his spot.

We all know by now the general story behind his benching as the starting nose tackle for the San Diego Chargers last season, and of the poor yards per carry against figure with the nose tackle on the field. But one can’t simply make the assumption that that automatically makes Thomas incapable of starting, let alone at a different position.

After all, Hood was benched as well. Who’s to say that Thomas can’t play defensive end in the Steelers’ system at a competent level? The team wouldn’t have signed him if they didn’t believe that to be the case.

Perhaps putting him in the starting lineup wouldn’t necessarily be coined ‘Plan A’, but it may be next in the alphabet, barring a more palatable solution. But contingencies must be in place for when things inevitably don’t go your way.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Callentown

    Until this situation is resolved, our defensive line will struggle. At the very least, the team needs a starting-level DE on that side.

    We didn’t have that before and we do not have that now, yet.

  • DoctorNoah

    I am high on Arnfelt and Williams potentially coming on strong this year, and I think, more critical than who fills the spot is what role the DE is going to play. The Steelers in their 70’s heyday were a mean and penetrating 4-3. In the recent past, we had a plug-the-middle 3-4 with pressure coming from the LB’s largely. Where do you think we are going?

    I think a lot is said about sub package secondaries but not the changing role in the line.

  • Big White

    Thomas is a tremendous athlete for his size. In high school he played two way, DL and fullback ala 290 lbs down at North Moore High. At UNC he was a 4-3 DT who would show great quickness and could collapse the pocket looking for quarterbacks. Somewhere somehow the Chargers tried to make him a NT and we know how that worked out. Plus in his stint there he managed to have like four kids with four women, the child support lawsuits made the local press and Thomas’ days on the left coast were numbered. Pittsburgh is going to be a perfect fit for him. He’s a good guy, but needs a disciplined surrounding. End is where he belongs and the steelers need an end who can occasionally spook a quarterback. Great fit.

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m excited to see what he can do!
    And I think the FO did a great job of setting themselves up for all kinds of different scenarios with this draft. They took 5 positions of desperate need and made them less of a priority. At the beginning, S, WR, DE, OLB and RB were full of holes. They might not be all star starters but each of them solidifies depth and can start if they have to!
    Moore, DHB, Blount, Mitchell, Moats, Thomas are as solid an off season as we’ve seen!
    Even Maysonet may be able to contribute?
    Right now I see only 1 position of high priority and that’s finding Ike’s replacement. I think DE is the next priority, but that depends on what the team thinks Thomas and Arnfelt n Williams can do? WR is next need but really it’s just a redzone threat so It could be WR or TE.
    With the new signings and new coaches were poised for a real improvement. If it happens that way you gotta give props to Tomlin for turning it around in 1 year!
    Let’s hope that’s the song we’re singing next year!!!!

  • If Thomas starts at DE for any length of time, we are in trouble.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I’m much as high as you are on Arnfelt, not so much on Nick Williams (hes still a project to me). Bottom-line, I personally think Cam Thomas will hold the reign until Arnfelt is ready unless we have a propsect who fall to us in 2nd (Stephen Tuitt, who I have in mind) should step in. Arnfelt look like a strictly LDE though, he’s a superior technican compared to any of our players on roster even Heyward. Like Aaron Smith, not much of a pass-rusher.

  • shawn

    interesting take … thanks for the info !

  • Big White

    I’ll never forgive the Steelers for letting Al Woods go. He was a Mini Snack and a hard guy to block. Titans got a really really good football player on the cheap. If we had kept him for the same amount it took to get Thomas, McClendon could definitely move to end and I would be stoked with Mac, Woods, and Heyward. That would have been nasty.

  • steeltown

    Cam Thomas will get his chances in camp and preseason, maybe he’ll prove himself a very capable player, but maybe he wont… so many unknowns on the DLine right now with Cam Thomas and the young 2nd yr guys

    I would not be against drafting Tuitt

  • steeltown

    Side note: If the Steelers truly see C.Thomas as a DE then they may very well draft a NT.. we have quite a few bodies at the DE position, most are unproven but the bodies are there, we do not however have NT depth outside of Fangupo

  • Steelers58

    The problem is that the draft comes before preseason. So we can’t try cam out at nt or de. So my question is where does the fo think he fits.
    I know u like tuitt at de. I really like nix. I think he will be a dominant nt
    I think we can trade down six spots and still get him.
    I fear the pats like him too