Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp on July 25th, and we are digging up the '32 Scenarios in 32 Days' segment to help us all pass the time. Once a day we will be drafting a potential 2015 season scenario, telling you why it will happen, why it won't and giving you important keys for the scenario to take place.
Scenario: Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas starts all 16 games in 2015 regular season.
Why it will happen: With Troy Polamalu's retirement, the safety position occupied alongside Mike Mitchell is now vacant and ready to be filled. There are applicants for the job, and the two front-runners are Will Allen and Shamarko Thomas. Thomas brings dynamic play making ability to the position which Allen doesn't possess. He doesn't have the play making ability of Polamalu, but not many players in NFL history have had such talent.
Thomas plays the run extremely well, and has the tools to be a solid safety alongside Mitchell, and the team seems determined to give Thomas every opportunity to prove his worth throughout training camp and preseason. Thomas' tackling, speed and overall talent level is above the veteran Allen, and should see him slated to start in Week 1 against the New England Patriots.
Thomas has shown the ability to make plays, and those plays have been made on the most unlikely of stages, special teams. Thomas has been tremendous in terms of finding the football and creating opportunities for splash plays, something the defense needs heading into 2015.
Why it won't happen: Thomas saw an opportunity to play significant snaps in 2014 when Polamalu was out of the lineup with a knee injury, but the team decided to have Allen play over Thomas. Not the glowing endorsement people expected for the player fans have dubbed "The Shark". Due to Thomas not seeing significant snaps on defense since his rookie season, his ability is still very much an unknown to the public eye.
On top of his lack of playing time, and the coaches choosing others to play over him when the opportunity presents itself, Thomas hasn't helped himself in terms of health throughout his NFL career. Thomas dealt with an ankle injury as a rookie, and an Achilles tendon injury and hamstring issues slowed him down throughout 2014. When it comes to being bitten by the injury bug, Thomas has certainly had his share since entering the NFL.
Keys: For this scenario to become reality, Thomas will not only have to win the starting job over Will Allen, winning the trust of his coaches, but will also have to stay healthy and on the field. Most fans point to Thomas being overlooked in 2014 as a reason for doubt, but if Thomas can stay healthy he will very well could be a play maker in the back half of the Steelers' secondary in 2015. The team will be missing Polamalu next season, and if Thomas expects to be the band aid over the wound of Polamalu leaving, he will have to stay healthy and prove his worth leading up to the regular season.