PITTSBURGH -- Shamarko Thomas has made quite an impression on the player he is expected to eventually succeed at strong safety.
Per veteran cornerback Ike Taylor, Thomas is training in California with Troy Polamalu after accepting an invitation from the eight-time Pro Bowler to work out together following the conclusion of Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason practices.
As Taylor said on TribLive Radio this week, this is not something Polamalu does on a regular basis -- and that Thomas should respect the opportunity to work closely with one of the best safeties of his generation.
“I was telling Shamarko before he went out there, ‘Shamarko, that’s something huge because the dude don’t ever do that. As far as learning tendencies and the defense, just the way of life, or just learning how to be a good person, you’re walking with Jesus on earth right there,’ ” Taylor said on his weekly radio show.
The invitation Polamalu extended represents as strong an endorsement as Thomas could receive from one of the players he attached himself to last season as a rookie.
It certainly is a promising sign after Thomas worked his way into the Steelers’ quarters package as a third safety in 2013 only to lose the spot to veteran Will Allen in the second half of the season.
Thomas played 184 defensive snaps last season but none in the Steelers’ final seven games. Allen, who re-signed with the Steelers last October, played well after a high-ankle sprain sidelined Thomas, and he held onto the job as third safety in the quarters package.
Allen, who is entering his 11th NFL season, continued to play ahead of Thomas during offseason practices, taking Polamalu’s spot at strong safety during organized team activities. Polamalu skipped the voluntary practices so he could train in California, though the eight-time Pro Bowler took part in mandatory minicamp, which ended last week.
The Steelers have high hopes for Thomas, a fourth-round pick in 2013, and the 5-foot-9, 217-pounder should stand out more at training camp where players will wear pads and hit after doing neither during offseason practices.
“Shamarko is known for knocking people out,” Taylor said, “and the only way you’re going to see him knock someone out is in training camp, preseason games, regular-season games. That’s what Shamarko Thomas excels at.”