Will Allen Still Ahead Of Shamarko Thomas On Steelers Depth Chart

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.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    There is another factor here. Allen KNOWS this defense probably better than any other S in camp. Mitchell must be ready to know where to play. Being on the field with the guy who knows the D best should help his progression in knowing the D.

  • John C

    Excellent point.

  • Kurt Williams

    This is no issue in June, and it’s not like Will Allen is a bum. The starting safeties are Polamalu and Mitchell. Thomas will gets his reps. If Troy retires and we are saying the same thing for the 2015 season then it will be disappointing if Thomas is 2nd string.

  • dave

    100% correct. No Troy, no Ike, new free safety, rookie linebacker, Timmons learning a new position. Will Allen has more tenure and should be ahead of Thomas, at least for the time being.

  • Steelers12328882

    Great point and another reason Troy should’ve showed up.

  • srdan

    I think if people recognize the season that Will Allen and William gay had last year it would be easier to understand why some of the up and comers are not beating them out. Both Allen and Gay IMO had career years last year. If the vets live up to the year they had last year, I agree with the article. But I don’t see Thomas getting less snaps than last year.

    My theory is that there are 15-16 starters on defense. Thomas will be a fringe starter again this year.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I don’t think Troy needed to be there for Mitchell to learn the system. All of the talk about him needing to be there in order for them to be on the same page I think is bunk. Mitchell needs to learn the system, the system will keep them on the same page. We will have plenty of time for them to work together prior to the season starting.

  • cencalsteeler

    I understand your point, but during OTA’s Troy might participate in maybe 15-20 plays a day. When you condense that time down, he’s probably only practicing for about a half hour. He already knows the system and is probably making more use of his time down in socal training. This also provides more practice time for the second and third string guys to get more reps who probably need it more than Troy.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I agree. Even if I preferred Thomas I think you want Allen to be the one teaching Mitchell the finer points.

  • steeltown

    This is not surprising at all, Mitchell is new to the Defense and W.Allen has 4yrs experience in the system… W.Allen can help Mitchell transition better than Shark

  • dgh57

    It’s how Thomas finishes the preseason that matters not how he starts it. Not worried at this time as he at least has youth working in his favor and a year under his belt.

  • Steelers12328882

    Yeah I get that, but maybe it’s more than just practice time. They could be hangin out and getting to know each other or going over the intricacies of the defense. Definitely not a big deal, but I’d rather have Troy breaking M&M in than Will Allen.

  • cp72

    Antonio Brown was buried on the depth chart. He just seized the opportunity when he got it. Thomas has way to much talent to be behind Allen for long.

    Be a missile on special teams, and make plays when you get reps. Give them no choice other than finding you a way to get on the field.

  • Matt Manzo

    I can understand Allen in front, for all the reasons listed below. But I don’t think Thomas has to worry about Blake AND Golden, only one of them will make the roster.

  • moonunit1

    They do totally different things. So all you’re doing is oversimplifying a complex issue. Shamarko is a SS who can play nickel corner and a top ST player. He has 4.3 speed at 215 lbs and he has CB hips. Will Allen is a slow, plodding, experienced FS who knows the system, can’t play nickel corner even in a pinch, is a mediocre ST player. They don’t do the same things at all, so comparing the two at a position that Shamarko isn’t even suited for is silly. Shamarko’s unique value to the Steelers comes at inside corner and ST right now, and thats why we were comfortable waiting so long to grab a CB, speaking of him as a pure safety is missing the point entirely.

  • Dave Modic

    Lot of new players and with Mitchell Troy and Ike should have been there!! Voluntary or not