The Bills hired Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone to lead their franchise in January, 2013.
In that time, some of the bigger headlines he made were due to the former Syracuse players he did not select in his first draft as head coach.
The Bills traded down from the eighth spot to the 16th with the St. Louis Rams, affording them the opportunity to select Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel - this was over Marrone's star pupil at Syracuse, QB Ryan Nassib.
It seemed bigger at the time - Nassib would eventually go in the fourth round to the New York Giants - but one that got a bit less attention was the Bills' selection of Nevada's Duke Williams, five spots ahead of where the Steelers took Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas (and four ahead of Nassib, as it turns out).
Perhaps the fact Marrone passing on Thomas is what inspired the Steelers to deal a 2014 3rd round pick with Cleveland to move up to the 111th spot to take Thomas.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said the one thing he'd really like to get in the 2013 draft was a young safety so his veteran secondary can help mentor him. Thomas has been all of that - nicknamed "Headache" by his teammates, not just for his hard-hitting style but the frequent questions he asks.
A notebook item from Tribune-Review reporters Mark Kaboly and Alan Robinson mentioned this, and quoted Thomas as saying, "I didn't get on him about that. I realize it's a business. It's not his call. It's probably the general manager's or somebody else's. I don't get mad about that."
He's likely right; the new head coach probably isn't making the call on draft picks, but it seems highly doubtful, considering the front office of the Bills is in the same room with Thomas's college coach, they didn't ask for his input leading into their fourth round pick. Perhaps Marrone banged a silent gong for Thomas. We likely won't know the truth, but regardless of who's decision it was, there's little to believe Thomas doesn't feel something of an extra surge facing the Bills and his former college coach.
Considering the Bills' penchant to run the football, Thomas's skill set can be utilized in this game. He's shown himself to be a more effective run defender at this point in his career, and getting some downhill attack on running downs may be a good idea for the Steelers, in certain situations.
Thomas may not be mad about it, but he'd be plenty happy about contributing to slowing down one of the league's better run teams.
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