Steelers vs Bills Film Review: Cam Thomas

A week ago, Pittsburgh Steelers free agent acquisition Cam Thomas was forced to start at nose tackle due to the concussion suffered by Steve McLendon. In the team’s last game, he was able to play at left defensive end, where he is projected to begin the season as the starter.

Because of the frequency in which the Steelers played their nickel defense against the New York Giants, Thomas got very little work with the first-team defense, as they rarely used a nose tackle.

As a defensive end against the Buffalo Bills, however, he got considerably more work this week. He also played some in the nickel along with Daniel McCullers as the second-string defensive line in sub-packages, but as was the case a week ago, he was unable to offer much as a pass rusher—particularly in the sub-package.

As a matter of fact, his performance overall was not quite as impressive as it was in the first preseason game, but it was still a more than adequate showing, which was more effective against the run.

Early in the game, the Bills gave former Steelers fullback Frank Summers a chance to carry the ball. This was one of the few occasions during which Ryan Shazier seemed unsure of himself. Instead of taking on the advancing Kraig Urbik, it seems that he planned on using his speed to run around him, but the result was simply a nice hole for the fullback to run through. Thomas did well just to disengage and reach behind him to pull the ball carrier down, even though the play gained eight yards.

After a quick two-play touchdown drive from the offense, the Steelers defense was right back on the field after enduring a sustained opening drive. E.J. Manuel handed off to C.J. Spiller as the right tackle and tight end tried to double team Thomas, but he was able to split the blocks and, together with Jason Worilds, who also beat his block, brought down the running back after just a short gain.

Midway through the second half, on the final drive of the game for the starting defense, however, Thomas had a little blunder. On a carry off left guard, Cameron Heyward got excellent penetration, which gave Thomas a shot at registering a big tackle for loss, but the ball carrier shook him off and was able to gain a yard on the play. This is not a tackle you want to see one of your defensive linemen miss.

Toward the end of the half, Thomas was on the field with McCullers with the second-team sub-package unit as the right defensive tackle. Following an excellent, instinctual play on first and goal from Shamarko Thomas to blow up a short pass for no gain, the Bills went back to the ground on second down. After first absorbing a double team, the center was partially tripped up by the skirmish behind him, and Thomas was able to make the tackle as a result.

Through two games so far, Thomas has shown that he can hold up well against the run, which was the main concern for most people regarding the Steelers bringing him in from San Diego. He has been successful in the past rushing the passer, so perhaps that will show itself in time.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • joed32

    I live here in SoCal and while I don’t actually follow the Chargers it’s hard to avoid them in the media. I liked the signing of Thomas, he’s quick and stout vs the run. Don’t expect much pass rush though. He did have 6 sacks in his 4 year career but the last one was in 2011.

  • steeltown

    I have been pleasantly surprised with Cam Thomas after really not knowing what to expect. He plays the run well. When considering he may soon be the swing DL guy, i’m pleased.

  • SteelersDepot

    you miss last season I take it?

  • dkoy85

    Yeah it’s looking like by seasons end we might have a very solid line if Tuitt learns and plays up to his potential. The FO, so far, did a pretty good job of addressing a position I was very worried about. Hopefully the whole starting defense can be on the field for the first half against the Eagle’s!

  • Eric MacLaurin

    He’s a good guy to have but isn’t good enough to play over Tuitt. He’s an upgrade on Al Woods but Tuitt is an upgrade on Ziggy Hood. He might be an upgrade on McLendon. I could also see them being a good platoon in the middle given the size difference. I like that he would allow a redshirt season for MCCullers.

    Finding an effective way to get the 11 best players on the field at the same time is going to be tricky this year. It’s hard finding alignments where at least 1 or two of the top 10 defensive players aren’t on the field.

  • joed32

    He had zero sacks the past 2 seasons.

  • PA2AK

    nit picking here, but he did have one in the post season last year.

  • joed32

    Yes he did. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t expect him to be much of a pass rusher.
    He is a stopgap until Tuitt is ready and after that he will assume the role that Al Woods had last year as a jack of all trades. He was a good pickup for that role but Tuitt could be a star.

  • PA2AK

    I hear you…not debating the point.

  • Steven Vincent

    This was difficult to follow. Please include the player’s uni number and maybe an arrow so we can pick him out of the crowd. With skill players on the outside it’s easy to figure out but with linemen it’s just a jumble.