The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense will be highlighted this offseason as the unit suffered one of its worst seasons in recent memory.
The Steelers’ secondary may have been the worst part of the aging unit. The secondary constantly gave up splash plays and looked old and slow.
Underneath the old and slow lies the young Shamarko Thomas, who the Steelers drafted in the fourth round of last year’s draft. The Steelers invested highly in Thomas; they clearly liked what they saw during his time in the combine and saw him as potential starter for them.
Thomas saw little playing time last season but now he will be looked upon to take a bigger role this season for the Steelers. The former Syracuse player will be needed to improve a reeling secondary.
Veteran Ryan Clark is likely on his way out of Pittsburgh and with his departure all signs point to Thomas to pick up the slack. Accompanied by Troy Polamalu, the Steelers may have two solid players in their secondary this upcoming season.
However, is Thomas ready to make the transition from rookie to starter? The Steelers better hope so. They need Thomas in the secondary and they need him to play at a high level.
Thomas has what it takes to be a starter for this team. What held him back this season was inexperience with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s defensive schemes along with the inexperience of paying in the NFL.
Thomas is a great tackler and hard-hitting one at that. If he’s able to posses the ability to generate turnovers the Steelers should be ecstatic. Turnovers were hard to come by this past season and if Thomas can imitate fellow safety Polamalu, then the Steelers could have two big-time playmakers in the secondary.
The young safety’s journey to the NFL is an inspiring story and you can’t help but root for his success. Thomas is no stranger to adversity and facing it in the NFL should be cake compared to what he’s been through off the field.
The secondary will be addressed further in this year’s draft as I expect the Steelers to target a cornerback in the first round while picking up a safety somewhere in the draft as well.
Fingers crossed that Thomas is ready to step into a larger role this upcoming season, if not the Steelers secondary will continue to suffer.