The Steelers drafted safety Shamarko Thomas a couple of years ago because they knew they were going to need some younger bodies at the position in the near future.
That need became more acute this offseason with the retirement of Troy Polamalu, whose departure leaves an opening in the starting lineup that Thomas is trying to fill after two years marked by injuries and special teams work. He’s got the right mentor helping him in his efforts.
Thomas said that he exchanges texts with Polamalu every other day and that the likely Hall of Famer “keeps my mind right mentally and physically.”
“I definitely am closer to him than I am to anybody,” Thomas said, via the Associated Press. ”My second year, I went to him in the offseason and said that I want to be great, and he just told me that being great isn’t just about being a great football player. It’s putting God first and your family, and everything else will fall into place.”
Thomas knows that trying to be an exact replacement for Polamalu is an impossible task, but he doesn’t need to be Polamalu 2.0 to help improve a secondary that struggled last season. They just need him to stay healthy enough to be the fast, aggressive player he was in college so that they can begin laying the foundation for a defense more in line with the Steelers’ historical heights.