Former Steelers Safety Signs with the Ottawa Redblacks

Shamarko Thomas

Andy Lyons/Getty Images Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu of the Cincinnati Bengals is tackled by strong safety Shamarko Thomas of the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 16, 2013.

In January former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant signed a contract with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. On Monday, safety Shamarko Thomas, 30, (a former Steelers teammate of Bryant’s) inked a deal with the Ottawa Redblacks. That means Thomas could be trying to cover Bryant when the Argonauts take on the Redblacks this summer.

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Shamarko Thomas’ Pro Football Journey

Thomas—5-foot-9 and 205 pounds—probably seems like a distant memory to most Steelers fans, but he has remained employed as a professional football player ever since he was drafted by Pittsburgh in the 2013 NFL Draft, selected No. 111 overall out of Syracuse.

In fact, coming out of college the Steelers liked Thomas and his 4.42 speed enough to trade a 2014 third-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to acquire the 2013 fourth-round pick they used to select Thomas. Yet he never came close to becoming a starting-caliber NFL safety, never mind the replacement for Troy Polamalu, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

During four seasons with the Steelers, Thomas appeared in 48 games (two starts), responsible for 53 total tackles, with two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

In 2017 he appeared in a dozen games for the Buffalo Bills and then another half-dozen for the Denver Broncos in 2018. But not before he spent training camp with the Indianapolis Colts in the summer of 2018, during which time he became the first NFL player ejected from a game—in this case a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks—for violating a new rule prohibiting helmet-to-helmet hits.

Over the course of 66 NFL games, Thomas accumulated 69 total tackles, including 57 solo stops. The Broncos went on to sign him to a Reserve/Futures contract in January 2019, but he didn’t play in the NFL in either 2019 or 2020. Instead he toiled for a pair of XFL teams, the New York Guardians and DC Defenders.

It’s also worth noting that Thomas had to overcome personal tragedy before making it to the NFL. While he was in college at Syracuse, he gained custody of his five siblings after losing his father in an automobile accident and his mother to a heart condition.

During his career with the Orange he started 43 games at strong safety, recording 263 tackles, two interceptions and four sacks. As a senior in 2012, he was co-captain of the team and a first-team All-Big East Conference selection.

Pittsburgh’s Offseason Roster Features Four Former XFL Players

This year four former XFL players will get a chance to earn roster spots with the Steelers, including offensive tackles Anthony Coyle and Jarron Jones, both of whom played for the New York Guardians. Pittsburgh also has a pair of ex-XFL linebackers on the team, namely Tegray Scales and long snapper/linebacker Christian Kuntz, the latter of whom was signed to Pittsburgh’s practice squad in November 2020.

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