Steelers Bench Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen to Start vs. Patriots

Dale Lolley of the Washington Observer Reporter is reporting that the Pittsburgh Steelers will start Will Allen over Shamarko Thomas when they open their 2015 season on Thursday night vs. the New England Patriots.

  • The move is a huge blow to Shamarko Thomas and raises red flags and serious questions about his future with the Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff decided to smash franchise prescient during the 2013 NFL Draft when they traded their 2014 third round pick to grab Shamarko Thomas in the 4th round. At the time Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake argued that had Shamarko Thomas been 2 inches taller, he’d have been a first round pick.

  • The Steelers quickly worked to incorporate Shamarko Thomas into their defense, including allowing him to cover receivers in the slot.

However injuries, and the Steelers 0-4 start in 2013, caused the Steelers to bring back Will Allen. Thomas did see some time when he returned from injury, but Tom Brady picked him apart in the Steelers 55-31 loss to New England in 2013. Since then Shamarko Thomas has remained in limbo, playing well on special teams, but Thomas was unable to get snaps with the defense even when healthy.

  • Mike Tomlin shrugged off questions about this in late 2014, but his answer failed to convince, especially since Troy Polamalu sat out injured during the season’s final four games.

Indeed, at the end of Steelers mini-camp, veteran Pittsburgh journalist Dejan Kovacevic offered this telling observation about Shamarko Thomas:

If anything, I’ve found the Steelers’ reluctance to use Thomas, injuries aside, to be perplexing. There have been times where it’s sounded like the only member of the coaching staff who believes in him is Carnell Lake.

Shamarko Thomas had a rough preseason and whenever his name got mentioned, it was generally for the wrong reasons. The headline “Steelers bench Shamarko Thomas” would to indicate that Kovacevic’s insights are spot on.

Steelers to Collect on Will Allen Insurance Policy. Again

One asset Will Allen has going for him his experience with the Cover-2 scheme that the Steelers defense is converting to. The Steelers signed Will Allen in 2010 and essentially kept him on the bench until early 2012 when they benched Ryan Mundy in favor of Allen. Allen provided stability to the defense, but the Steelers allowed him to depart as a free agent.

  • However, they brought Allen back in 2013 after the Cowboys cut him, and Allen delivered dividends.

And, although it feels almost disrespectful to write this, the truth is that the 2014 Steelers defense was at its best when Troy Polamalu was out injured and Will Allen was starting in his place.

The Steelers waited until Troy Poalmalau retired to once again resign Will Allen as an insurance policy and it seems like they making yet another claim. While Allen has shown himself to be a capable safety, he is 33 years old and past the age when players begin to see their skills decline.

Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler and Carnell Lake are apparently banking on that decline being delayed just a little longer.

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