Ike Taylor's vote of confidence in Shamarko Thomas provides sense of optimism

Vincent Pugliese

Steelers veteran cornerback Ike Taylor went out of his way to send a message about the future of rookie safety Shamarko Thomas, the target of a draft day trade between Pittsburgh and Cleveland last year.

There are the standard cookie-cutter quotes. The ones so expected, many writers will have already subconsciously jotted down a few of them before even asking the question.

"So Ike Taylor, what do you think about Shamarko Thomas, the guy the Steelers selected with the pick they acquired from Cleveland?"

The cookie-cutter response is something along the lines of "He's been working really hard, and he's got a great future."

Taylor isn't a cookie-cutter guy. Instead, his quote was a bit more revealing, according to Branson Wright of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

"By the time the end of next season comes, I'm going to say I told you so," Taylor said. "Once Shamarko gets an opportunity to start, ya'll going to see why we call him 'Headache' as a nickname. He's a young explosive guy that can run and hit. If you're going to have a knock on him, you may talk about his size. Everybody talked about Earl Thomas' size, but those guys in Seattle have been balling. So a football player is a football player, and that's Shamarko."

This is part of the reason why Taylor was given the Chief Award for his cooperation with the media this season.

Think of it as if you're Thomas. How could you not be excited hearing a veteran speak to the media in such a way? Fans, no doubt, are excited. Maybe they weren't this excited before, but they certainly are now. One wouldn't presume Taylor recently read a certain article in which a random stab-in-the-dark mock draft had the Steelers taking a safety with the 13th overall pick, but his endorsement is powerful all the same.

Remember, Troy Polamalu did next to nothing his rookie season. Thomas cannot be fairly compared to Polamalu, nor should he be, but the point is still the same; the fact he got dogged through much of his rookie season, and had limited playing time behind a veteran (Lee Flowers vs. Will Allen) are still similarities both will share.

Thomas is but one of several younger Steelers players who are scratching the surface of their potential. Wright's article was based on how the deal made between Pittsburgh and Cleveland last year will work out in the long run, but the overall value of it may be determined a ways out from now. The point is, the Steelers got the young safety they wanted to begin developing, and they got him at a time veterans like Polamalu, Taylor and Ryan Clark were there to help mentor him.

At least one of those veterans is impressed enough with him to cut out the cookie-cutter language.

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