Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Until safety Troy Polamalu decides to ride off into the sunset, there will be only one safety spot up for grabs. But which safety will take up residence at the spot Ryan Clark played for eight seasons?
It is going to come down to Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas. And both have things about their games to warrant consideration. And regardless of which player wins the starting spot, look for both players to contribute in 2014.
The case for Thomas centers on experience. Injuries in 2013 forced Thomas into service, with mixed results. He spent a great deal of time as the dime cornerback and looked more than a little out of position. Nevertheless, Thomas has a year in the defense, and that bodes well for his future.
Mitchell is the newcomer. From a pure safety standpoint, Mitchell has a much more complete game. His height trumps Thomas 6’0” to 5’9”, and his speed is at least equal to that of Thomas. Mitchell started 13 games in 2013 for the Carolina Panthers and ended up with 72 tackles and four interceptions. Turnovers are what this defense has been lacking, so having Mitchell on the field is enticing.
Nevertheless, I do not expect Thomas to go down without a fight. The odds of him winning the starting spot are long, but don’t count him out. He is aggressive and, with his starting experience, should have the confidence of the coaching staff. Look for this one to come right down to the wire, with Mitchell winning the job late.