Nov 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) scrambles with the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Shamarko Thomas (29) and outside linebacker Jason Worilds (93) give chase during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Shmarko Thomas wasn’t half bad in his rookie season last year. He played well, and you could tell the coaches were trying to find ways to squeeze him in during a season where Troy Polamalu stayed healthy the entirety of the season for a change.
Thomas is even better than last season, and it looks like his one-on-one offseason training with Troy Polamalu is paying dividends already in his ability to pursue and wrap up ball carriers. But has the student already outperformed the master? We haven’t heard much of Troy Polamalu this preseason. On one hand that’s to be expected. No one expects the 11 year vet to be explosive in the first few games of the preseason (if any at all). On the other hand, there were some rather uncharacteristic moments of Polamalu’s game against the Bills. He missed a tackle in the second level that allowed the running back to run for a 20-yard scamper. Two or three years ago, and it’s Polamalu who is laying the wood to a player like that and making sure he reaches no further than the point of impact.
Thomas is now the one popping people when on the field. His vision has vastly improved – no greater example than when he broke off his looming coverage over the tight end spot and broke towards a pass headed for a wide receiver. Thomas timed his hit well and we all heard the “pop.” His special teams play has also been very very good.
With the emergence of Thomas, the coaches will find it (if they aren’t already) difficult to keep The Headache off the field and on the sidelines. How can you justify keeping someone with Thomas’ consistency and explosive play since last November off the field? Sounds like his nickname is also meant for the coaches and not just his teammates.
Could this be the slow cross-fade of Troy Polamalu and Shamarko Thomas? If Saturday is any testament, then yes.