Shamarko Thomas has been considered for the past two years to be Troy Polamalu’s successor as the strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers. There has to be a major reason as to why the Steelers traded away their 2013 third round pick to take him in the fourth round.
Tell Thomas he’s Troy’s replacement, and he might slap you. When asked about seeing his playing time inflate if Polamalu leaves, the 5 ft 9 in, 217 lbs. safety replied with “No comment. That’s my mentor.” And that’s really all he had to say on that matter.
We all know Troy Polamalu took Shamarko Thomas to Southern California to train with him in the offseason. I, along with the majority of fans, saw it as a handing of the torch from master to student. The Luke to his Yoda. I could tell that the training paid off in a way.
Shamarko was a force to be reckoned with on special teams in 2014. He had 5 special team tackles, a forced fumble, and a blocked punt, although the blocked punt was in garbage time. He had the speed to catch up to Devin Hester at a full sprint.
Injuries have been a major reason as to why he hasn’t seen any playing time on defense. His hamstrings have limited him to just a pure special teams presence.
Despite the complete lack of snaps on defense, I firmly believe Thomas has the talent to become a great safety. He definitely has the speed and demeanor to dominate. A humble and hard working man, he fits in with Pittsburgh’s blue collar reputation. His major downside, in my opinion, is his height. He’ll be prone to being pushed around by bigger receivers. If he can instill in himself the ability to punish the receiver, to make big hits, to make the receiver regret ever stepping foot into his territory, then we’ll have a special player on our hands.
But, in order for Thomas to even have a shot at showcasing his skills on the field, he must show what he can do during training camp. Of course that’s a given for any player at any position, yet it holds a special meaning for Thomas. Meaning in the sense that Shamarko has huge shoes to fill in fitting a mold that future first ballot Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu has left behind.
Now, I’m not saying Shamarko is going to be another Troy, there will never be another Troy Polamalu. But he has to at least strive to pick up where Polamalu left off. What the Steelers need is a man who can give it his all, day in and day out. A person who can create splash plays when the opportunity presents itself, for a man who can no longer do it himself. Shamarko may be just what this team needs.
Stats and quote courtesy of steelers.com