Irrespective of Mike Mitchell’s Groin Injury, Steelers Need to Play Shamarko

As Jim Wexell’s tweet indicates, Michael Mitchell’s practice participation was limited due to a groin injury. While that is certainly bad news for a defense that’s still finding its legs, there could be an upside should Mitchell be a no-go.

  • Losing Mitchell would be a blow to the defense on several fronts.Mitchell, who forced fumbles in back-to-back games, is just finding his place in the defense
  • The secondary is already operating at minus-1 starter, with Ike Taylor out
  • Losing Mitchell would rob the defensive backfield of a veteran presence, with Brice McCain and Antwon Blake moving into starting roles

But every loss creates an opportunity, as Steelers Nation discovered one Sunday in Baltimore 10 years ago when Tommy Maddox got hurt and in came Ben Roethlisberger. And that brings us to the subject of today’s story, Shamarko Thomas.

Shamarko Thomas, safety, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Of all the players on the Steelers 2014 roster, perhaps there is none more mystifying that Thomas.

Start with the fact that the Steelers traded their 3rd round 2014 pick to move up to get him in 2014. The Steelers don’t trade future draft picks. Chuck Noll did it. Once. And he regretted it. The team had to sweat out their chance to pick John Stallworth as a consequence. The Emperor swore he’d never do it again. And he didn’t. Neither did Bill Cowher.

  • But the Steelers did it with Thomas.

Whether it was Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert or Carnell Lake who pushed for the trade, at least at the outset, Thomas showed them enough to vindicate their decision. The Steelers immediately put worked him into the defense, having him cover in the slot. But then came the 0-4 start, the return of Will Allen, and Thomas getting injured.

  • Thomas got healthy again, but saw little to no action on defense after his return.

Big things were expected of Thomas heading into 2014, but it when Mitchell was held out of OTA’s, Will Allen took his spot. And with the Steelers thin at corner, the word came that they would not use him to cover in the slot.

  • Thus far in 2014, Thomas has played mainly (if not exclusively) on special teams.

Which is where he got hurt a few weeks ago. Word his he’s ready to return. Which is good for him. Now that he’s healthy again, the Steelers need to find a way to work him into the defense. Thomas was drafted to replace Troy Polamalu. And while evaluations of Polamalu’s performance vary, this could easily be his final year.

  • The Steelers must find out what Thomas really has.

They seem reluctant to do that using their nickel or dime packages. Perhaps Mitchell’s injury will force their hand. If that’s the case, it would change the unfortunate nature of Mitchell’s injury, but just might a young prospect necessary playing time.

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