2017 Offseason Questions: Do Steelers Want Shamarko Thomas Back?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Will Shamarko Thomas be re-signed?

I have been made well aware of the fact that safety Shamarko Thomas doesn’t have a ton of fans on his side four years into his career. It’s actually an ironic change of pace when we consider how many advocated for him year after year insisting that he merely needed to get on the field to demonstrate what he was capable of.

Though he was a fourth-round draft pick, he has been viewed by the team and the fan base through the prism of a third-round draft pick, because that is what they gave up in order to acquire the fourth-round draft pick that they used to draft him in 2013.

That he has been unable to demonstrate that he can be counted upon to serve a role on defense has made the selection, and the trade, look much worse. But all of that is to me immaterial when we weight the consideration of whether or not the Steelers should re-sign him—or, more factually, whether or not he will be re-signed.

I think it’s obvious by now to all that Thomas’ worth is as a special teams contributor, and while not all are ready to acknowledge the significant role that he plays in that area (special teams coach Danny Smith frequently gushes about him, though that is no endorsement given that many believe he should be fired), few can deny that the team’s performance in this area has suffered when he has been injured.

Thomas fell to fifth on the Steelers’ safety depth chart, behind Jordan Dangerfield, so I would have a hard time imagining another team offering him anything more than a veteran-minimum deal. At least with Terence Garvin, the team had him in their goal line package.

Thomas is the team’s best gunner on the punt coverage unit, and I would argue one of the best in the league, as he forces a lot of fair catches. I would like to see him back, but I know that many disagree, and the team may well feel that they have enough safeties who play special teams.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • VaDave

    There was so much lost playing time along all sides of the Special Team units, it’s really hard to form a value judgment on who of any are worth brining back. I think in the case of Thomas, it’s a case of the more you can do. There are only a few roster spots for single purpose players. Brining back a sole purpose gunner that has a penchant of interfering with the returner would not be one of them. Besides, what’s Coates going to be doing?

  • Steelers12

    i wouldn’t mind him being back as a Special Team Specialist

  • Kevin Reich

    Rather see him get an opportunity to elsewhere.

  • SilverSteel

    I am going to agree with you there VA. Between injuries and the bone headed plays he makes, he is not worth tying up a whole spot on the team. He has his moments, but not enough overall value.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    no. just no.
    dhb is a better gunner

  • WreckIess

    I could take him or leave him. The bottom of the 53 is pretty insignificant. As long as they can play Special Teams well(which he can) I’m not opposed to it.

  • Conserv_58

    Mathew, are you sure the team gave up a third round pick for Thomas? I thought they merely swaped fourth round picks with the browns. If I’m not mistaken it was only within two picks of the browns’ pick, therefore nullifying the need to give up a third round pick to move two spots. Then again, I could be mistaken.

    As for Shamarko’s future with the team, he shouldn’t have one because he hasn’t justified and lived up to why he was drafted in the first place. If the Steelers did give up a third round pick for him then there is no question that he’s been a monumental disappointment. In fact, when you look at the how and why he was drafted then he’s a total bust. For as long as he’s been on the team there is no justifiable reason for him to not be in a starting role, as a safety. Fans also have to keep in mind that, as a rookie, he had the best possible role model a rookie could ask for in, Troy Polamalu. Troy took Shamarko under his wing and mentored him. He even took Shamarko with him in the off season to train with him. Shamarko also had, Carnell Lake as his position coach, yet after all of that he’s been relegated to playing on the ST’s unit. I don’t care that he’s a decent gunner. I do care that he’s a total failure as a safety. That makes him another wasted pick.

  • falconsaftey43

    That gave the Browns a 3rd round pick from the next year in exchange for the Browns 4th round pick that year. Steelers used Browns 4th round pick to select Shamarko, then used their own 4th round pick that year to take Landry Jones.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Look, if he is willing to resign with us, I think you bring him back, but much like the ILB situation, he may be into a numbers game when it comes to cuts. If you assume Mitchell and Davis are givens. You probably are going to carry 4 or 5 guys. If you draft someone high, they make the roster as well, that leaves one or 2 spots between Golden, Thomas, and Dangerfield. It might come down specifically to special teams play to decide which makes the team.

  • RickM

    If it’s for the vet minimum, I’d resign him. But I would understand if they don’t with the 8 games missed last year and one of the injuries being a concussion.

  • Conserv_58

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    News flash. We use two gunners. And Shamarko is only a 4-year vet, DHB is an 8-year vet. Not bad to have a younger guy on tap for this job.

  • popsiclesticks

    At the minimum, absolutely. Why let a special teamer go? Then you’ve gotta spend similar money and maybe even a pick to replace him.

  • Maureen A Gomes

    Well said!

  • dany

    He’d be dumb not to take the chance at a starting job, even if the steelers offer the same salary

  • Rotten Sircus

    I think Jordan Dangerfield is the better player. I would let Shamarko test FA and see if another team is interested ..I’m thinking coach Lebeau goes after him for the Titans !!!

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Newsflash. Sham…arko Is terrible.

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    Not as a gunner he isn’t.

  • Steve Johnson

    Special Team Players can be found in the Draft. He contributes absolutely nothing more.

  • Steve Johnson

    A younger guy taking up a roster spot, provides absolutely nothing on Defense. No, they should be able to draft a replacement in April. I’m not discounting the value of S.T, but Defense Wins Championships, that Secondary as a Corps Unit is still weak.

  • Steve

    Sometimes a change in place is needed to see player shine.
    Wish Shark well, and had been a big advocate for him.

  • Steelers12

    So u think he is good as gone

  • Matthew Marczi

    His failure to live up to his draft status or his failings to emerge as a defensive contributor are inconsequential to whether or not he still holds value on special teams. Do you want to release Darrius Heyward-Bey because he was a first-round bust, or is it okay because he wasn’t the Steelers’ bust?

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, I’d actually forgotten that he ended up on IR last year with a concussion issue. That’s got to be concerning given that he’s another player with a concussion history, in his case going back to college.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Better let the Patriots know they can release Slater now.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I would be pretty surprised if he’s even given a legitimate chance to compete for a starting job.

  • dany

    Yeah but another team can at least, at least, give him that opportunity. As you guys have stated recently, the steelers are not exactly 100% set at safety, but pretty close, and Shamarko is certainly not gonna get a chance to change that at this point. Unless he wants to be a gunner for life he’s likely to take even the slightest chance to prove himself

  • Constantinople

    it’s not worth it to keep him, sorry. losing his gunner “abilities” isn’t what will keep the steelers from advancing deep in the playoffs.

  • Constantinople

    well, there IS a draft coming up in april. I suppose it’s not out of the question that we might be able to find someone in the later rounds who can make it easier to let go of such a “vital” part of our punt team, lol

  • Constantinople

    okay? I’m sure the patriots would be just fine if they moved on from slater. but nice deflection, though

  • Douglas Andrews

    I’d like to get Shark back for his special teams contributions. What might work against him are those nagging injuries and the concussion that ended his season last year.

  • Matthew Marczi

    People who devalue special teams tend to be the first people to complain when a special-teams unit filled with inferior players give up a touchdown or can’t return a kick because there’s no blocking. Having a good special teams unit is a big advantage.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m not saying he shouldn’t take an opportunity if offered one. I’m just saying I don’t see why any team would offer him a legitimate chance to compete for a starting spot, at least any more than any player on any roster has a chance. He’s not even Ryan Mundy.

  • I think they will get him back at or close to minimum.

  • Well put

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    He’s a penalty machine considering the few snaps he gets per game.

  • Rusted Out

    Purely special teams players are just not that valuable, and that’s all that Shamarko is at this point. If he is lower than Robert Golden and Dangerfield (gets no respect) on the safety depth chart, then why bother to sign the guy? His rookie contract is up, and for whatever reason, he has done nothing to warrant another.

  • LucasY59

    there is a chance that if the Steelers never made the trade for Shamarko that the 3rd rd pick that he cost in the trade couldve been used on Dri Archer (they used the 3rd rd comp they got from letting Wallace go instead)

    I am as disappointed as anyone that he wasnt the replacement for Troy that everyone wanted him to be, but really was that a realistic expectation at all?

    I like the contributions he has made for the team and if they can bring him back cheap (seems like a very real possiblity, ST guys dont get paid on the open market and are usually some of the last FAs still available) they should do so, at worst the have guys like Dangerfield or Hagen beat him out for a roster spot (maybe even a rookie) and at best he is a cheap ST guy that really helps on the coverage units (when he missed time because of injury was when the Steelers had most of their issues with coverage IIRC)

  • popsiclesticks

    You might be able to, or you could just give a guy you already have a minimum salary deal with no guaranteed dollars and then draft whoever you want.

    Could you point out the part where I said he was vital? I’m combing through all of the one sentence that I wrote and I can’t seem to find it.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Because he is their best gunner. You’ll remember how valuable that is as the Steelers allow a punt return touchdown.

  • Rusted Out

    Yea, not having Shamarko Thomas on the team next year is really gonna show me. If a player’s only function is a gunner on special teams, then his contribution is very small. Best case scenario (for Shark) is they bring him back at vet minimum, they don’t add anyone to the safety position in the offseason, and an injury occurs. Nobody is going to be screaming about Shamarko not being on the team if a punt gets returned. So if the only reason to bring him back is special teams gunner, then you can take my prediction of him not being a Steeler in 2017 to the bank.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You do realize that they already re-signed a linebacker that they signed exclusively for special-teams purposes last year, right? There are players whose role is to perform on special teams. Robert Golden was one of those players before he got an opportunity to start the last two years, and that’s what his role is again.

  • Rusted Out

    Yes, and that is a good point, but just like I said, Shamarko will be a vet-minimum type contract at best, as is Steven Johnson’s contract. Shark has just fallen too far down the depth for me to believe that the Steelers have much faith or interest in him.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Of course he would be a vet-min signing. Never suggested otherwise. He would probably have a lower cap hit in 2017 than in 2016 when he had a cap hit of $788,288. They probably have very little faith or interest in him as a defensive contributor, but special teams is another story. He’s one of their most important players there. Danny Smith constantly talks about how important he is.