Pittsburgh Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas has the unforunate task of attempting to replace a legend. No one will ever live up to the comparison of someone like Troy Polamalu, but for Thomas, his time as the Steelers' safety is now.
The Steelers fan base is seemingly split in regards to Thomas taking over the reigns of the back half of the defense alongside Mike Mitchell. One side states Thomas hasn't had enough time at the safety position to be judged harshly, while others state when Polamalu was injured, the team turning to Will Allen over Thomas was a sign the team didn't trust the young safety from Syracuse.
Regardless of which side of the debate your reside, Thomas will enter the 2015 season as the starting safety alongside Mitchell. Thomas has shown flashes of why the team traded up in the 2013 draft to select him, but those flashes have been allocated to preseason games and special teams. In his rookie season, Thomas saw time as a nickel cornerback, but struggled to keep up with athletic tight ends and slot receivers.
A lot can change in two years though, and the safety position is Thomas' to lose heading into Spring workouts and training camp. The Steelers recently added trusted veteran Will Allen to their roster, but could also look to add a young safety in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft, either way, the team can't help but show some caution moving forward with Thomas as the starter.
Even with caution, Thomas should be given the chance to prove he is more than capable of performing well enough to ensure the Steelers' secondary doesn't fall even further behind the learning curve than they were in 2014. A safety compared more to former Indianapolis Colts Bob Sanders, Thomas looks to be the unfortunate player who is next in line after a legend.
Thomas should know what it takes to be great in the NFL, as he lived and trained with Polamalu in California in 2014 before the season. Whether those lessons learned in spending time with No. 43 rubbed off on Thomas has yet to be seen, but for Shamarko Thomas, the time to perform is now.