The Steelers' secondary is one of the better all-around groups in the league. It has been the main contributor to the Steelers' top-ranked pass defense numbers over the last two seasons.
It is rarely challenged the way Cincinnati is capable of challenging them. Particularly now, with a year of experience for Mohammad Sanu and the acquisitions of tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard, the Bengals have one of the deepest passing offenses in the league.
The Steelers drafted Shamarko Thomas for these kinds of match-ups. Due to the Bengals' ability to hit the deep seam and fly pretty much at will, teams will have to play most even downs (not short-yardage) and long downs from a nickel package.
Thomas, as confirmed by Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell, was playing as the team's nickel cornerback in the absence of Cortez Allen against Tennessee - William Gay was the second corner. It's not a version of the Big Nickel package the Steelers played last year, but rather, simply another way to use the versatile Thomas while keeping experienced and talented Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu on the field.
Again, #Steelers rookie Shamarko Thomas is a nickel CB, not a safety. When he's in, it's not some kind of 3-safety, big nickel package.— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) September 12, 2013
@N__ickk Not saying that. He'll be a safety some day, but working strictly as a CB right now. That's why they kept Cromartie-Smith.— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) September 12, 2013
Thomas getting on the field against Cincinnati would be more of a product the status of Allen's ankle. No word suggests he's expected to miss this game, but he'd be out there if Allen is unable to go.
He still might, considering his ability to play the run from the secondary. Cincinnati will still want to establish the run, hoping to get their tight ends - Eifert and Jermaine Gresham - in short coverage with Pittsburgh's shorter safeties. The Bengals kill the seam, and if there isn' t much of a cushion to eat up off the line, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Dalton look for his power forward-sized receivers down the middle.
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