Steelers seeking safety from the Sharknado

USA TODAY Sports

Steelers rookie safety had never heard of the cult movie "Sharknado," but that became his nickname anyway. He told BTSC Friday he is ok with it, as long as it gets the fans excited.

LATROBE, Pa. -- Summer TV-movie sensation Sharknado, when a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles and sharks terrorize the area, apparently has made its way to Pittsburgh Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College.

No, the made-for-TV movie isn't a favorite among Steelers players, but social media site Twitter blew up when someone altered the first name of the club's fourth-round draft pick to come up with Sharknado Thomas.

The rookie safety said he liked the new nickname.

"No, man, I never heard of that movie, but I did see Twitter," Shamarko Thomas said. I saw where some fans were calling me that. I guess I'll go along with anything they want, as long as it's positive. Anything to get the excitement up for the fans, I'm all right with that."

Thomas hasn't made as big of an impact on the field, yet, during training camp. In fact, he stood out the other day for a play that he didn't make. Thomas peaked into the backfield, anticipating a running play, and then had to chase veteran wideout Plaxico Burress downfield. Burress caught a long pass and ran into the end zone untouched with Thomas at his heels.

"No, you can't let that bother you, but you do have to learn from it," Thomas said. "I know it was a rookie mistake, not reading my keys right, but maybe you're right. It was good to get it out of the way early so I never do it again.

"I read run, and it was a boot. Before I knew it, Plax was running downfield, and I was chasing him. That's not good, but I guess it's better that it happened here and not in a game. And now, it won't ever happen again."

Those occasional missteps have kept Thomas down the depth chart a bit in the early going, but look for him to quickly move up due to his special teams play. Thomas is a vicious hitter on kick- and punt-return coverage and should be in line to drill someone once he gets that opportunity.

"I know that's where I'm going to make the biggest impact in the beginning, on special teams, and I love to hit,'' Thomas said. "So, I'm ready for that, but we probably won't do anything live on special teams until the preseason games. So, I just have to do a good job in practice, and I'm having a lot of fun out there.

"So, camp is going strong now, and I just want to show the coaches that I can cover, play the run, play on special teams and do whatever they need me to do. And I need to get my play calls down. (But) I'm definitely coming along, especially with my communication. I'm way more vocal than I was in the spring. ... It's really settling down for me now."

Thomas said he has to keep studying the playbook to learn all the calls, a responsibility that falls on a safety in the secondary. Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark are the Steelers' starting safeties, so Thomas can't help but pick things up just from watching those guys.

"I can watch them play and see how it's done," Thomas said. "They've shown me how to be a professional football player, the whole NFL process, and taught me what I need to know to get the job done. (But) it was like I was watching a video about Steelers football, watching them fly around at mini-camp.

"It was great. I really enjoyed that, and I learned a lot. I've learned a lot from those guys already during this camp. And we've had a lot of fun so far."

And if Thomas can continue to play well, the Steelers fans should remained involved as well.

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