The Steelers were interested in this year's safety class as high as the first round.
They filled a major need by trading a third rounder next year to get back into the fourth and grab Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas.
Behind starters Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, the Steelers had absolutely no depth on their roster at safety. Things got even worse as Polamalu missed nine games with a calf strain, forcing Ryan Mundy into the lineup.
This offseason, Mundy left for a deal with the Giants, and fellow backup Will Allen also flew the coop, leaving the Steelers very vulnerable.
Shamarko Thomas makes a lot of sense for the Steelers because of the way he plays the game. He's a bit undersized, but is a force around the line of scrimmage. This guy looks like a missile when he's on the field.
Thomas won't open camp as a starter, but he's got to be ready to play. Polamalu and Clark both play a style of football that's conducive to injuries and could force Thomas into the lineup.
Dick LeBeau is going to love Shamarko Thomas.
Thomas plays the game at a high rate of speed and can flat out blow people up. He's versatile enough to play up in the box or drop deep into coverage. That's something the Steelers can play with.
Right now, Thomas is in a great position to learn the game from Polamalu, who plays a similar style, and execute on the field when he's call on. He'll have to get better in coverage, but he can immediately fit as a pass-rusher from deep.
With Polamalu and Clark firmly cemented in place as the starters, Thomas will start the season as a backup. But given the injury history of those two players, he could end up seeing some significant time as a rookie.
Immediately, Thomas is going to be an impact player on special teams. Think about a guy like Thomas sprinting down the field in kick and punt coverage. Scary stuff, huh?
But I'd be shocked if Thomas didn't end up becoming a significant contributor on the defense by the end of the season. Given the injury history of the Steelers' two starting safeties, Thomas will end up on the field this season.
In the Grades/Analysis piece, I gave the Steelers an A for the Thomas pick because I thought they both filled a big need and they get great value.
The Steelers had to dump a third rounder in the 2014 draft, so it goes to show you how highly the team thinks of Thomas. He's great depth for the time being and could eventually become a regular in Pittsburgh's lineup.
Dick LeBeau will find a way to use this guy.
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