Give Steelers Shamarko Thomas A Chance, Will Yinz?


The Steelers have a safety competition on their hands when the team enters training camp later this summer.

If you listen to a large group of fans and media types, one player is already set… to sit on the sidelines.

That player is Shamarko Thomas. And, it’s baffling why his fate as a Steeler has already been sealed by the yinzer contingent.

Comb through articles talking about Troy Polamalu retiring and you’ll hear the doubts of whether Thomas can fill those shoes. Better yet, comb through the comments section in any article discussing defense and you’ll invariably see someone taking pot shots at the fact that Thomas didn’t start over Polamalu and sat over Will Allen.

What those doubters/critics can’t seem to remember is that Thomas had two things working against him – fighting off injury in his rookie year, and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau‘s propensity to start veterans over younger players regardless of physical ability (or inability).

Despite Thomas’ visible work ethic and offseasons spent working with #43 – something that Polamalu has never done before in his entire career up until Thomas’ arrival – the doubters are many that Thomas will be the long term answer at the strong safety position.

Cooler heads (or in this case more sensible) usually prevail. Enter Neal Coolong from over at BTSC and The Steelers Wire, who reminds fans of a situation that involved Joey Porter and the unproven James Harrison.

"James Harrison showed he could play a bit in a few spot appearances while Joey Porter stole the spotlight. The team let Harrison make plays on special teams while giving Porter every snap for which he was healthy and not suspended. Harrison filled in here and there for Clark Haggans as well, but clearly, he was the back-up with no chance to overtake either starter."

Once Porter left for warm and sunny Miami and ‘greener’ pastures, Harrison was able to step into the role at OLB proper. From there his legendary status became cemented.

Will Thomas become Defensive Player of the Year within the next two years? Even I’m not that optimistic, but I’m at least willing to give Thomas a solid chance at proving himself. I’m not just talking a few games either. Give this young man a large chunk of the season to settle in and really go for broke.

And, who knows, maybe Thomas will really surprise all of us and be a very special kind of player in the way that Harrison came almost out of nowhere.

If not?

Veteran Will Allen will be waiting in his usual spot as backup, and will serve well if asked to step in.

For now, I’m willing (and as should everyone else) give Thomas the support and opportunity to see what he can do in the box.

Next: Steelers Player Preview: LT Walton

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