STEELERS – SUNDAY
PITTSBURGH — Apparently the Pittsburgh Steelers 53-man roster wasn’t set in stone, and neither was the starting secondary.
When final cuts were made Saturday, Steelers draft picks Doran Grant (fourth-round cornerback) and Anthony Chickillo (sixth-round linebacker) were on the 53-man roster, but after the club signed running back Jordan Todman and defensive end Caushaud Lyons both were jettisoned.
And after starting at strong safety the majority of the preseason, it appears that third-year player Shamarko Thomas has been replace by veteran Will Allen. Mike Mitchell solidified his spot at free safety.
“I don’t think it affects what we do defensively at all,” Mitchell said Sunday. “Will’s an extremely capable guy, and Shamarko is an extremely capable guy. I think our defense is our defense, and we just move the pieces around. (And) what’s comforting is that I’ve played with both guys.”
Mitchell was paired quite often with Allen last season, as Troy Polamalu missed four full games and parts of others. He also was matched with Thomas throughout spring drills, but due to injuries to both they were rarely matched together throughout training camp the preseason.
“From a football standpoint, obviously, the more reps you get with the person you can do things without necessarily talking that much,” Mitchell said. “And we try to do a good job of being in constant communication. But as far as chemistry outside of football, I don’t think that matters. (And) I don’t see the defense taking a turn one way or another now.”
Thomas clearly was dejected that he already lost his starting spot, but he realized there were reasons for the move.
“I feel like I’ve got some work to do because I gave up two big plays in two games,” Thomas said. “It’s all about consistency for me. Troy said to me that he gave up a lot of touchdowns as a rookie, and it taught him a lot. It’s important that I grow from this.”
Until Thomas is ready, Allen should be more than capable.
“I’ve played with everybody, so I don’t care who else is out there,” Allen said. “I’ve played a lot with Mike before, and I’ve played with Shamarko. … Mike and I started a few games together last year when Troy was down. (And) I feel like I’m a starter whether I’m a backup or not. I prepare to be the starter, because you never know when your number’s going to be called.”
The Steelers also appear to be ready to play multiple-DB sets against the New England Patriots Thursday night with at least three cornerbacks in the secondary. Antwon Blake and Cortez Allen would handle the outside, while Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"