When traning camp opens the last weekend of July in Latrobe for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it will be time for second-year safety Shamarko Thomas to shine. In the first eight weeks of last season, the Virginia Beach native got nearly 200 snaps under his belt in Dick LeBeau‘s defense.
The 5-foot-9 former Syracuse Orangeman is not conceding the free safety starting job to six-year free agent veteran Mike Mitchell, who the Black and Gold signed from the Carolina Panthers in the offseason.
Thomas needs to put his energetic and fierce style on display for everyone to see. In spring workouts, however, he was taking reps with the second team.
As Dave Bryan from Yardbarker.com suggested, a solid training camp by the fourth-round draft pick in 2013 could give head coach Mike Tomlin the luxury of being able to carry just four safeties on the 53-man roster this season instead of five.
Maybe Troy Polamalu, Mitchell, Thomas and third-year safety/special teams standout Robert Golden could be the quartet that makes a difference. It could leave veteran Will Allen as the odd man out when it’s time to trim the roster.
Last season as a rookie, Thomas had his best game in the 19-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7 when he put up four solo tackles and assisted on three. He also contributed a total of six special teams tackles over the 2013 campaign.
Thomas is the prospect trying to find his way in an experienced secondary. Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor both have 12 seasons under their belts. Allen has 10 NFL seasons on his resume while third cornerback William Gay has seven.
We will have to wait and see in August if youth will be served in the defensive backfield.