Steelers sign nose tackle Cam Thomas
The Steelers' defensive line went from thin to Casey Hampton-sized with a stroke of Cam Thomas' pen.
Now, all the Steelers must figure out is where to play Thomas, a 6-foot-3, 330-pound nose tackle who signed a $4 million, two-year contract Friday. He started 11 games last season with the San Diego Chargers, but was benched during the final three weeks of the season for Pete Lissemore.
The Steelers played host Friday to another defensive lineman, one whose position wouldn't be in doubt — pass-rushing end Alex Carrington, who was limited by a quadriceps injury to three games with Buffalo last season. Carrington seems to be a good fit for Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense — he was not as suited to Buffalo's 4-3 — but he also plans to visit the Cleveland Browns. New Browns coach Mike Pettine was the Bills defensive coordinator last season.
With Thomas locked up, the Steelers could move Steve McLendon, their starting nose tackle last season, to defensive end or use Thomas to back up McLendon. Or they could use both McLendon and Thomas playing together in sub-package defenses in which they want to neutralize the middle of the line of scrimmage. They also have the little-used Hebron Fangupo at nose tackle, but he played only 13 snaps last season.
Before signing Thomas, the Steelers were becoming precariously thin on the defensive line following the departures of free agents Al Woods (Titans) and Ziggy Hood (Jaguars). Defensive end Brett Keisel also is a free agent, but the Steelers have not moved to re-sign him.
Thomas isn't an effective pass rusher but, like the massive Hampton, is considered to be a better run defender who could restore some of the physicality that was missing with the Steelers defense last season after Hampton wasn't brought back. The Steelers tumbled to No. 12 against the run, their worst ranking under LeBeau and down from No. 2 in 2012, and they allowed an average of 25 more rushing yards per game more than they did that season.
Thomas, who is nicknamed “Baby Zilla,” becomes the second free agent signed during an unusually busy week of activity by the Steelers, joining safety Mike Mitchell. Thomas graded out 49th among the top 68 defensive ends/tackles evaluated by Pro Football Focus.
Thomas, a fifth-round pick from North Carolina in 2010, had one interception last season, but hasn't had a sack since getting four in 2011. He has six career sacks in 54 games, with 16 starts.
Thomas' deal includes a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $1 million in 2014 and $2 million in 2015. His cap hit will be $1.5 million this year and $2.5 million in 2015.
While the Steelers try to work out a deal to bring back wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, former starting wideout Emmanuel Sanders also remains unsigned. Sanders has visited with the Jaguars, Bucs and Chiefs and is scheduled to visit the 49ers on Saturday. Former Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer's one-year contract with the Cardinals is worth $750,000 — a strong sign the Steelers weren't very interested in re-signing him.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers offensive line targeting injury-free performance as key
- Steelers’ Heyward looking to stay for long haul
- Former Steelers kicker Reed doesn’t like new NFL PAT rule
- Steelers guard Foster likes offense’s direction heading into season
- Steelers claim QB-turned-WR Gardner
- Steelers’ Lemon hopes to put squeeze on opposing QBs
- NFL moves PAT back to 15-yard line
- Steelers gamble Chickillo can make transition to outside linebacker