It isn't always easy to come to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent. Adjusting to a new team can be difficult, but transitioning to a team with expectations such as the Steelers can be overwhelming. Mike Mitchell talked about it after coming over from the Carolina Panthers, and defensive lineman Cam Thomas could say the same after a very underwhelming 2014 season after being signed from the San Diego Chargers.
The Steelers brought Thomas in to be a two-gap defensive end in the Dick LeBeau system, all this after playing nose tackle in a primarily one-gap system in San Diego. To say Thomas struggled was an understatement; however, with a year under his belt and injuries along the defensive line this training camp, he has gotten plenty of valuable repetitions early in this 2015 season.
"I feel more comfortable," Thomas told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I don't like that it took me a year to get it, but I get it now."
"I feel like I was playing a lot better at the two-gap, not that it was perfect, but I felt like I was doing better there with Steve (McLendon) teaching me how to do it," Thomas said. "It really doesn't matter, one-gap or two-gap, you still have to play a gap. I know I have to be versatile."
Versatility is something Thomas is leaning on to secure him a spot on the Steelers' 53-man roster. Thomas has been playing both defensive end as well as nose tackle this preseason, and his ability to move to any position along the line is an attractive factor to add to his resume. In what was thought to be a training camp battle for primary backup defensive end with Clifton Geathers, Geathers' injury which lead to his release has made the job Thomas' to lose.
New defensive coordinator Keith Butler sees some positives out of Thomas so far in 2015, however not enough for Thomas to be able to rest easy thinking about his spot on the team this season.
"He's been pretty good for a lot of it because he's getting a lot of reps," Butler said. "He's getting some time against some guys he's not going to see during the regular season. He'll see some better guys in the season. He's taken advantage of it a couple of times. Then a couple of times in games we'd like to see him be better. He got knocked off the ball in the goal line [against Jacksonville] so he can learn from the experience too."
Thomas will most likely be called upon to be the primary backup along the defensive line, and whether he is playing nose tackle or end, Thomas will have to improve on his 2014 season to have a positive impact on this 2015 Steelers defense.