Steelers S Shamarko Thomas: ‘I’m More Knowledgeable About This Defense’

While Pittsburgh Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas failed to play a defensive snap during the second half of the 2013 season, he played enough in the first eight games to know just how complicated the defense run by Dick LeBeau really is.

“I was all over the place last year because I didn’t know the playbook,” Thomas recently told Ralph N. Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I was thrown into the fire, and sometimes I got burned. I’m more knowledgeable about this defense.”

The Steelers were forced to throw the then-rookie Syracuse product into proverbial fire last year thanks to them losing veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote for the season in the second half of the opener against the Tennessee Titans. The loss of Foote resulted in more dime personnel being used as the primary defensive sub package and Thomas saw a lot of action in the slot defender as a result.

An ankle injury suffered in the Week 10 game against the Buffalo Bills forced Thomas to miss the next two games and when he returned to action he had lost his spot to veteran safety Will Allen. Thomas, however, feels the playing time he did receive as a rookie certainly helped him.

“I picked up a lot playing multiple positions last year,” Thomas said during last month’s organized team activities (OTAs), according to Paulk. “The playbook is easier to learn, but I need to come out every day as if it’s game day.”

Prior to the start of free agent signing period this past offseason, it looked as if Thomas might be in line to replace outgoing veteran free safety Ryan Clark in 2014. Those hopes were quickly dashed, however, when the Steelers signed Carolina Panthers free agent safety Mike Mitchell on day-one of the new league year. Even though Mitchell was a priority offseason signing, Thomas, as you would expect, isn’t ready to concede the starting job to him.

“The expectation is to start, but at the end of the day, it’s about what the coaches want,” Thomas said. “But don’t get it wrong, we’re going to compete.”

While Thomas might have a hard time topping the nearly 200 snaps that he played last year during his second season, he said he’s going to continue to grind and stay in the ear of his mentor Polamalu, who he trained with during the offseason out in California.

“We’re not just talking about football,” said Thomas of Polamalu. “We’re talking about life because if you’re not consistent off the field, then you won’t be consistent on the field.

“I feel like I’m in my zone because I’ve been consistent with my workouts and learning something every day.”

A solid training camp this year by Thomas could result in the Steelers being able to only carry four safeties on the 53 man roster this season instead of five. Should that ultimately wind up being the case, it would likely result in the team parting ways with either Allen or third-year safety Robert Golden. Golden, however, is a solid special teams player, while Allen knows the defense inside and out and is a longtime favorite of head coach Mike Tomlin.

Regardless of how many safeties make the final 53 man roster out of training camp this year, Thomas is expected to be a huge contributor on special teams in 2014 as he continues to work on mastering the defensive scheme. As a rookie, Thomas was credited with six total special teams tackles.

The Steelers will report to Latrobe for training camp a week from this coming Friday.

  • treeher

    My bet is that this is Troy’s final year and Marko will be his replacement.

  • steeltown

    Love this guy, “if you’re not consistent off the field, then you wont be consistent on the field… I feel like im in my zone”

    The Safety depth discussion is one that is interesting. I would think they’ll hang onto W.Allen for another year, he does know both S spots and plays special teams, Golden is a demon on special teams. I could see us carrying 5 Safeties again, especially with the amount of sub package we deploy.

  • Lil Smitty

    If Shamarko shows up and plays well, Will Allen might not make the team. Not because of special teams play by R Golden, but the age factor. The only way Will sticks is if he shows he can still run with younger wide outs.

  • James Kling

    I think so. Shark gets some package work to ease him in, next year he starts. However, Troy is under contract until 2017, so I could see the roles being reversed, with Troy getting some spot duty and backup work if he doesn’t retire (which he very well could decide to do).

  • Virdin Barzey

    We knew that time was coming. It may be here sooner than we know. At best he has this year and next before he rides off in the sunset.

  • Dom

    No chance Troy plays backup in my opinion once he’s a backup he will be gone, either retired or cut.

  • James Kling

    I think you are probably right, since Troy seems like a guy to know when to leave the stage. However, if he feels the team is close and he can still contribute, he might hang in for a year in a limited role on the chance to get a ring. Hard to say.

    Gonna be a very sad day when that guy retires.

  • JohnB

    I agree. I think they were playing Allen a lot with the first team just to get Mitchell more acclimated with our D in minicamps. I think Allen is the insurance policy if they don’t feel comfortable with Thomas just yet or if Thomas has to play the CB spot if theres an injury. Shamarko should be second on the depth chart at SS after training camp

  • cencalsteeler

    While I was reading that quote I was thinking how lucky Shark is to have Troy mentoring him, both on and off the field.

  • dgh57

    Yes, I agree as Shark is in the perfect situation with not just Troy but also Carnell Lake. Throw in there all the other veterans he’s surrounded by like Taylor, Gay, and W. Allen he can’t help but learn and I’m expecting good things to come out of all this.

  • Steve

    Was listening to Joe Green talk about the 74 Steelers and he said guys talk about being in the zone. In all the years Joe Green played, he said it was 1974 when he was in the zone. That was the start of the Dynasty. Joe Green also talked about how Dwight White was in the Hospital right before the Super Bowl with a high Temperature and came out playing very well. The Game Ball was to “The Chief” Mr. Art Rooney.

  • Two more solid seasons out of Troy.

  • James Miles

    This guy is a bum. They hyped him up to be this human missile and he loses his job to some two bit hack. Another disastrous selection!

  • dkoy85

    His rookie year? Yeah he’s horrible… cant believe he lost his spot to a veteran who knows the defense. Damn Tomlin and co.! It’s crazy to think that a rookie, who is not even a first round pick, cant even beat out a vet. Iye iye iye.

  • GoSteelerz

    I don’t think Will Allen can, at this point his best days are clearly behind him and he wasn’t starter material even then… But he does know the defense… And the players seem to like him… So maybe he joins the coaching staff?

  • SteveM2

    Joe Greene was in ‘the zone’ at least one other time; that was the 1972 Houston Oilers game when both TB and Franco were injured, and the team needed to win that away game to maintain command of their division. I’ve never before, or since, seen a defensive football player take over a game like Joe Greene did that day, that’s the kind of zone he was in.

  • MC

    Hmmm i see Troy stayin for at least two years, i don’t think Shark will take over next year, just my guess..

  • MC

    Have a look at some of the other comments he’s posted on this site. I can imagine his life is one fulfilling positive moment after the other.

  • James Miles

    Gentleman, I just live in a world of reality and don’t see through the Die Hard Steeler rose colored glasses like you do. Back to Back 8-8 seasons should tell you something!