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Time for Pittsburgh Steelers Rookie Shamarko Thomas to Shine

Aug 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Shamarko Thomas (29) gestures on the field before playing the New York Giants at Heinz Field. The New York Giants won 18-13. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
Curt PopejoyContributor ISeptember 16, 2013

Sometimes, necessity is the mother of invention. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, there is going to be a need to "invent" a way to cover the Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers and tight ends minus two of their top three cornerbacks.

According to Steelers.com, Cortez Allen has been ruled out for Monday's game with an ankle injury and Curtis Brown has been ruled out with an illness.

This means that veteran William Gay will be lining up opposite Ike Taylor and could at times be assigned to cover top wide receiver A.J. Green—a daunting task for even the top coverage players.

When Allen went down with his ankle injury in Week 1, the Steelers were unable to turn to their regular nickel cornerback due to a yet undisclosed illness that still looked an awful lot like the effects of a blow to the head on punt coverage early in the game.

So, Allen was out, and Brown was unable to relieve him, leaving the Steelers in a predicament. That promoted Gay to the starting spot and put rookie safety Shamarko Thomas in as the nickel corner.

Going back and reviewing the game once Thomas was playing, there were highs and lows. He was in on 10 snaps on defense as a nickel cornerback.

On the plus side, Thomas did a great job being called into quick service. He understood his assignments and showed the same explosion in coverage he did in college. He showed a nice burst to the football and made one tackle.

Looking ahead to Monday night's game, the Steelers did not sign any cornerbacks that would challenge for the spot, so it would appear as if Thomas will be the nickel corner from the outset this week, while safety Robert Golden will be the primary backup for both safety positions.

A full week of practice and Thomas should be able to really showcase his skills.

The Bengals are going to throw a lot of different looks and players at Thomas. He could be in man coverage on tight ends Jermaine Gresham or Tyler Eifert or chasing wide receiver Brandon Tate deep.

Thomas has an opportunity to have a real impact in this game.

The Steelers are already short-handed on defense, so there is a real possibility they will minimize their linebackers and play in a nickel defense over a base alignment.

The strength of Thomas' game is his physicality and explosion. Look for some big hits out of the young player Monday night.

This is also due to the offensive flexibility of the Bengals with their two tight end sets. Regardless of the reasons, there's nothing to say Thomas won't be on the field for at least 50-60 snaps Monday night.

Welcome to the NFL, rookie.

The Steelers have a rich tradition of versatile safeties, and Thomas has a chance to make his mark early for this team with a big performance on an even bigger stage.

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