On Sunday, I wrote about how Pittsburgh Steelers second-year safety Shamarko Thomas might find it tough to see the field in 2014 as much as he did as a rookie and according to a Monday report by Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Syracuse product still has some climbing up the depth chart to do in order to be the first safety off the bench this coming season.
With starter Troy Polamalu absent for the first set of OTA practices last week, Fittipaldo reports that veteran safety Will Allen was working with the first-team defense opposite newcomer Mike Mitchell. That left Thomas working with the second-team.
“I’m not disappointed,” Thomas said about his current place on the depth chart. “I’m just here to compete. It’s coach’s decision at the end of the day. I’m just here to work every day, keep my head down and just grind.”
The news that Thomas is currently behind Allen on the early offseason depth chart is not overly surprising, however, as that’s where the 2013 fourth-round draft pick ended the 2013 season.
After averaging just over 21 snaps through the first nine games of the 2013 season as a rookie, Thomas never saw the field again after injuring his ankle in the Week 10 game against the Buffalo Bills. Instead, it was Allen, who wasn’t even with the team at the start of the season, who took his spot and never relinquished it.
Despite being relegated to only special teams duty once he recovered from his ankle injury last season, Thomas seems to think that the playing time he received early in the season definitely helped him.
“I’ve progressed a lot,” Thomas said, according to Fittipaldo. “I know the whole defense now. Last year I was all over the place. This year I’m settled in, comfortable and I can just play.”
Allen, who is entering his 11th year in the league, agrees with Thomas’ claim.
“He knows the defense a lot better and he’s playing more confident,” Allen said. “That’s the jump you have to make from Year 1 to Year 2, to graduate to different levels in the defense. He can make the checks and make the calls. He’ll be ready to go.”
While this early offseason safety depth chart report might disappoint a few of you, it’s important to remember that Allen has long been a favorite player of head coach Mike Tomlin. With that being said, Thomas will be given every opportunity to win the backup spot over the course of the summer.
Being as Allen is not the special teams player that he once was, and combined with the fact that his 2014 salary will have to be guaranteed if he’s on the Steelers 53 man roster after Week 1 of the season, he’s by no means a lock this year.
If, however, Allen, Antwon Blake and Robert Golden all wind up making the final 53 man roster out of training camp this year with no injuries ahead of them on the safety depth chart, that will not be a good sign when it comes to what the team thinks about Thomas. In other words, they probably expect him to beat out Allen and everyone will be disappointed if he doesn’t.