The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of challenging and complicated decisions to make regarding free agency in 2016. However, their choices regarding Cam Thomas are neither challenging or complicated, and that is unfortunate.
Capsule Profile of Cam Thomas’ Career with the Steelers
The 2014 off season found the Pittsburgh Steelers still navigating free agency while in salary cap purgatory. That meant that keeping role players like Jerricho Cotchery and Al Woods would be more complicated than normal.
And it was, as Al Woods and Jerrhico Cotchery both departed for warmer and greener pastures in Tennessee and Carolina.
While losing Al Woods was a blow to the Steelers, Kevin Colbert responded quickly by signing Cam Thomas from the San Diego Chargers. The head line “Because 1 Cam on the Steelers defensive line isn’t enough…”
Sure, Thomas had been benched by the Chargers in the middle of the 2013 season, but he provided position flexibility at the cost of about 1 million dollars less than Al Woods. On paper, it worked out brilliantly. Then reality set in.
Cam Thomas played poorly enough in training camp that the Steelers brought back Brett Keisel. Cam Thomas was woefully in over his head as a defensive end, and was OK as a nose tackle his game was far from flawless as this video from the Steelers 2014 31-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns reveals:
Cam Thomas isn’t the focal point of this Behind the Steel Curtain video and it clear that the main culprits in this breakdown are none other than James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and Cortez Allen. But take a close look and you’ll see that Browns center Alex Mack (number 55) totally dominates Cam Thomas, number 96.
To be fair to Cam Thomas, his overall play has been better than that one play, but really it looks like a 6th grade bully pushing around a 2nd grader on the playground at recess.
The Case for Steelers Keeping Cam Thomas
…Oh, this is a tough one, but let’s go with “He knows the system” and “the Steelers can resign him for the veteran minimum.”
The Case Against Steelers Keeping Cam Thomas
The “Cam Thomas knows the system” argument flies in the face of one very inconvenient fact. The Steelers coaches don’t trust him. From 2014 to 2015 Cam Thomas’ percentage of the Steelers defensive snaps dropped from 44.9% to 16.9%. Some of that slack was picked up by Daniel McCullers, but only a limited amount.
The Steelers have rookie L.T. Walton and it is hard to believe he would fare worse in his sophomore season.
Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Cam Thomas
John Mitchell needs a defensive end capable of spelling Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. Cam Thomas is not that person. The Steelers also might need to replace nose tackle Steve McLendon who is also a free agent.
- Cam Thomas simply isn’t that person.
In fact, if Dale Lolley’s reporting on Steel City Insider is correct, the Steelers are considering bringing Al Woods back. One has to wonder if the Steelers don’t regret not finding the extra million it would have taken to keep Woods in Pittsburgh.
No matter. Do not expect Cam Thomas to remain a Steeler. After coming to Pittsburgh on a “prove it” contract, Cam Thomas failed to disprove the doubters.