Prior to him suffering an ankle injury in the Week 10 game last season against the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas registered a whopping 193 snaps of playing time on defense. Once he was healthy, however, he never played another snap all season.
With less than 100 days to go until the start of the 2014 season, you have to wonder just how much playing time Thomas will get this year baring any injuries to starters Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell, who was signed during the offseason to replace Ryan Clark.
First, you have to remember that most of Thomas’ playing time as a rookie came with him lining up in the slot as he barely played any snaps as a traditional deep safety. In addition, had inside linebacker Larry Foote not been lost for the year to a biceps injury in the 2013 season-opener, you have to wonder if Thomas would have wound up seeing the field as much as he did.
With the Steelers drafting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first-round of the 2014 NFL Draft and instantly inserting him as the starter during OTA practices, odds are good that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will want to go back to using a traditional nickel as his sub package of choice to defend against the heavy use of “11″ personnel this season.
The Steelers heavy use of the quarters package with dime personnel last season as a primary sub package seemed to be out of necessity thanks to Foote going down injured. While then-rookie inside linebacker Vince Williams gave it his all in 2013, the two-down linebacker label that he wore coming out of college was easy to see and it resulted in Polamalu having to play way too much inside the box.
One could argue that Thomas could see time as a nickel corner in 2014, but if so, which cornerback would you sit? William Gay? He was the Steelers best cornerback last year.
While Thomas certainly still appears to be the heir apparent to Polamalu, I really think he still needs more grooming and as a result, he might be hard pressed to see the amount of playing time that received during his rookie season if the starters ahead of him stay healthy.
What are your snap predictions for Thomas in 2014? More or less than 2013?