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Old 08-08-2013, 04:54 AM   #1
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Default Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Teammates call him "Headache," and, as Ike Taylor explained, there is a good reason for it.

"He's a monster," Taylor said of rookie safety Shamarko Thomas. "A lot of people are going to be catching headaches or he's going to be catching headaches, it's going to be one or the other."

That may be somewhat politically incorrect to say in the current touchy atmosphere surrounding concussions in the NFL. Yet, that is the style of this 5-foot-9 rookie from Syracuse, so prized by the Steelers in April that they traded a third-round pick in 2014 to the Cleveland Browns in order to draft him this year.

"My mentality is to go out there and hit," Thomas said.

He has caused headaches in training camp already, not by hitting anyone, but by peppering veteran safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu with questions.

"Shamarko has been asking RC and Troy questions from the time he steps on the field until meetings," Taylor said, "to the point that RC is like, 'Hey, man, this guy is getting on my nerves, he keeps asking me questions.'

"But from my perspective and RC's perspective, it's a good thing, coming from a rookie guy. Just seeing those guys wanting to get better is going to help our team out."

Thomas said he has to ask questions.

"If you ain't asking the questions and you mess up on the field, that's on you, so I ask lot of questions. [Clark] might have said it to Ike, but me, he answers every question I ask, and Troy is good with that, too."

Thomas is the heir apparent to one of the Steelers' two veteran safeties, and he could play in the nickel and/or dime defense this year. The plan also is to spot him for Polamalu and/or Clark for plays.

That's all right by Thomas, who has been among the hits of training camp in more ways than one.

"I have to get my feet wet, see what you can do in the NFL," said Thomas, who noted one difference between the pros and the old Big East. "You got bigger and stronger backs, so you got to bring more power and bring more explosiveness. But it's football at the end of the day ... I can handle it."

Wheaton on right track

Thomas finds himself defending another rookie on many pass plays in training camp, third-round draft pick Markus Wheaton.

Wheaton, from Oregon State, missed all the Steelers' spring practices except for rookie orientation because of the arcane NFL rule that does not permit rookies to join their new teams for drills unless they graduated or their classes were finished for the term.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said he never would know Wheaton missed anything because he has picked it up with the help of veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery and receivers coach Richard Mann.

Wheaton has speed, which they lost when Mike Wallace headed to the Miami Dolphins in free agency. But, unlike Wallace, he does not look to be a one-trick pony and just run deep. Wheaton has shown a good ability to go over the middle in live contact in camp and hang onto the ball.

"It looks like he wants to get into the competition," Haley said of Wheaton. "We're all excited about him.

"He's in a good position because Jerricho is mentoring him. When you have situations like that where veterans are mentoring guys who might at some point take their job, usually you're on a good team.

"I can't say enough about how well Jerricho is doing on the field, No. 1, but also in bringing this kid along. For a guy who missed the whole offseason, you would not have any idea he did. That's a testament to him, to Richard Mann, to Jerricho. That's a good sign when you don't feel like he's behind."


Roster updates

The Steelers signed another cornerback, Devin Smith of Wisconsin, and running back Alvester Alexander of Wyoming.

Smith recently was cut by the Dallas Cowboys. Alexander spent time with Tennessee and Indianapolis in 2012.

To make room, the Steelers cut running back Curtis McNeal and defensive end Cordian Hagans, both undrafted rookies.

Smith is the third cornerback signed since training camp opened. The others are Ryan Steed and Buddy Jackson. The reason is Cortez Allen had minor knee surgery, Curtis Brown is out with an ankle injury that coach Mike Tomlin considers minor, DeMarcus Van Dyke has a hamstring injury and rookie Terry Hawthorne has a knee injury.

"We're dropping like flies," Taylor said, but seemed unconcerned because it is still a month before the season starts.

"No, no need to get worried, we'll be all right. That's just how it is sometimes. This is the most I've seen at the cornerback position as far as guys dropping. That's all part of the game. One guy's loss is an opportunity for the next guy to step up."

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...#ixzz2bMkdpLiz
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Old 08-08-2013, 05:00 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

Rookie Thomas impresses teammates while learning on the job

By Ralph N. Paulk

Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2013, 9:30 p.m.
Updated 4 hours ago

Shamarko Thomas tumbled down some teams' draft boards partly because some perceived his 5-foot-9 frame to be a detriment in an era of big, heavy-hitting safeties.

The Steelers overlooked his size when they visited him during his pro day at Syracuse. Thomas' speed, agility and football aptitude captured the attention of general manager Kevin Colbert and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

“We have had some pretty good short players around here,” LeBeau said. “If a guy plays good football, we don't overexcite ourselves with his height. A good safety can bring guys down to his level.”

Indeed, the 5-10 Troy Polamalu carved out an All-Pro career that likely will land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Thomas didn't waste time consulting with Polamalu. And Polamalu didn't pull punches about the difficulty of processing LeBeau's defensive schemes.

“Troy said, ‘I'm not going to lie to you. It took nearly a year to learn the playbook,' ” Thomas recalled. “He said boogie down to learn all of the positions because it'll make the job easier.

“My first impression of the playbook was that it was big. I had to adjust to the wording because our defense in college was way different.

“I really understand my assignments more each day because Troy has really been helpful,” added Thomas, who has practiced in the nickel package. “They've stressed how important it is to get into the playbook, and things are starting to slow down some. I'm not thinking as much now because I'm in better position to make plays.”

Thomas has been a sponge the first two weeks of training camp. He keeps close to his mentor, occasionally resting his arms on Polamalu's shoulder as Thomas inquires about his progress.

“(Thomas) being here couldn't come at a better time for a better person,” Polamalu said. “All (safety) Ryan (Clark) and I ever wanted from anyone new coming in is to have a humbling disposition and a willingness to learn.

“The more he's willing to learn, the more he can soak up and the less he'll make mistakes. Ryan and I have made every mistake in the book, so hopefully he'll learn from us both.”

So far, it's been difficult to evaluate the native Virginian. He looks like a natural some days and a project on others. He clearly looks better suited to defend the run than the pass — a weighted examination that can't be gauged accurately until he lines up against the Giants in the preseason opener Saturday night at Heinz Field.

“What attracted us to him is the energy he brings to the game,” LeBeau said. “When we talked to him in the one-on-one interviews, he impressed you as a very mature young man. He's been everything we anticipated he would be.

“He's definitely going to get better. We'll see what he does with the tools he has. I don't like to put too much on these young guys because he'll have to develop at his own speed.”

However, veteran linebacker Larry Foote has no doubt the Steelers have discovered the man likely to succeed either the 32-year-old Polamalu or 33-year-old Clark.

“He is a Steeler,” Foote said. “I told Kevin we got lucky in getting him.

“Shamarko is fast, and he's in the action. He has enough speed and size for this game. Steeler Nation will be pleased when they see him.”

Thomas is already feeling the pressure, but he welcomes the challenge.

“At first, I was in awe when I stepped onto the field with all these great players,” Thomas said. “When I saw Troy make a play, I thought, ‘Now this is the real NFL.' After that, my instincts kicked in because I was born to compete.

“I felt some pressure coming in here, but it's something I've always fed on. The way I figure, I've got time to learn from the best.”

Coach Mike Tomlin usually sticks with his top four or five draft picks. So Thomas' roster spot seems assured considering the Steelers lost Ryan Mundy and Will Allen to free agency. Still, he's been pressed some in camp by Robert Golden and Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith.

The more demanding challenge Thomas faces in training camp might be the battle of expectations. It's rare that a fourth-round draft pick has so many eyes focused on his every move.

Of course, the attraction is the possibility he's the one who soon will replace Polamalu or Clark.

“I haven't thought about it, but everyone says it,” Thomas said. “I'm just blessed to have this opportunity to learn from Troy and Ryan because they are the smartest people I've ever met on a football field.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/steelers/...#ixzz2bMmKPUN0
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook
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Old 08-08-2013, 05:58 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

Jerricho Cotchery = Class Act.
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Old 08-08-2013, 07:35 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

I think that this Wheaton kid is going to be much better than Wallace ever was. Although not as fast, he has better hands and a MUCH better attitude. We just might have a younger and faster version of Hinse Ward on our hands.
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Old 08-08-2013, 07:57 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

"He's a monster," Taylor said of rookie safety Shamarko Thomas. "A lot of people are going to be catching headaches or he's going to be catching headaches, it's going to be one or the other."

that's the shit I want to see!
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Old 08-08-2013, 07:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

Quote:
Wheaton has speed, which they lost when Mike Wallace headed to the Miami Dolphins in free agency.

But, unlike Wallace, he does not look to be a one-trick pony and just run deep.

Wheaton has shown a good ability to go over the middle in live contact in camp and hang onto the ball
.
With three receivers that can go across the middle AND are fast enough to go deep it could provide matchup nightmares for defenses.

This could be a breakout year for our offense.
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Old 08-08-2013, 08:03 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

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Originally Posted by GBMelBlount View Post
This could be a breakout year for our offense.
if our O-line can pass block you mean
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Old 08-08-2013, 08:06 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

Rumor has it Wallace was not that much faster. Like maybe a step in 100 yards. Keep in mind, more than likely we are going to be running more two TE sets, especially with our new ZBS system, which means only two WRs on the field. The idea is to not tip off the D as to whether were are going to run or pass ( which was a pet peeve of mine with BA who seemed like he had a formation for every play).

Top end speed is not going to be as critical, but precision route running and blocking is going to be essential in this offense. Wallace attributes in those area were somewhat lacking.

Last edited by VaDave; 08-08-2013 at 09:50 AM.
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Old 08-08-2013, 08:50 AM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

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Originally Posted by Killer View Post
if our O-line can pass block you mean


The offense looks like it has many weapons.

Won't mean a thing unless the O-line produces.
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Old 08-08-2013, 09:31 AM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers rookie safety Thomas causing headaches

Quote:
Originally Posted by Galax Steeler View Post
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Teammates call him "Headache," and, as Ike Taylor explained, there is a good reason for it.

"He's a monster," Taylor said of rookie safety Shamarko Thomas. "A lot of people are going to be catching headaches or he's going to be catching headaches, it's going to be one or the other."

That may be somewhat politically incorrect to say in the current touchy atmosphere surrounding concussions in the NFL.
Wonder what the over/under is on how many games it will take for Goodell to fine or suspend Shamarko after he hears about Ike's comments?
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