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Steelers Find Hidden Gem in Ballhawking Safety



Steelers S Trenton Thompson
Steelers S Trenton Thompson warms up against the Green Bay Packers, Nov. 12, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

CINCINNATI — When he first came to the Steelers, Trenton Thompson was just a guy the team needed to get through training camp. When all three of the top safeties were down, Thompson stepped off the street to help run those practices, but in the meantime, he made plays, including an interception in his first preseason game. But after three injuries during the season, Thompson got thrust into the starting role opposite Damontae Kazee. Somehow, it appears that the Pittsburgh has found something.

For Thompson, he has turned into a real playmaker. He brings athleticism to their secondary, but more than that, Thompson’s instincts and ball-hawking capabilities have flashed, too. Thompson made the read to fool Jake Browning into an interception on a critical second-half drive.

“Nah, it wasn’t anything I saw — it was just playing football and being where I’m supposed to be on my drop, and he just happened to throw it to me. I dropped one last week, so this made up for it,” Thompson said. 

The Steelers inserted Thompson into the lineup with plenty of confidence in him. Thompson joined the Steelers in training camp after several injuries at the safety position and got plenty of playing time throughout camp and the preseason. His playmaking ability jumped out to the coaching staff in the preseason after he caught an interception against the Buccaneers. That and his relentless work ethic were crucial reasons for keeping him around on the practice squad. But now, as a starter, he is shining, too.

Steelers s Trenton Thompson

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Trenton Thompson warms up before the game against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 12, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. Efforts like Trent’s today make that real,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’re really appreciative of it. I think it’s what team is about, particularly over the course of the journey that is the season. There’s going to be opportunities for people to ascend and change the perceptions of who they are professionally. This guy has been excited about his opportunity and we’re excited for him. He delivered.”

Thompson, 25, is a 6-foot-1, 196-pound safety from San Diego State. He joined the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent after the 2022 NFL Draft and played one game as a rookie in 2022.

The Giants initially released Thompson at the outset of training camp and added him to the practice squad, but he was promoted to the active roster on Nov. 23. He played 12 snaps, all on special teams, and then was released back to the practice squad.

All it takes is one play for someone like Thompson to get a grip on an NFL roster, though. And he has done just that. His interception was a game-changing play.

“Game changer. We needed a turnover for sure, just to get us pumped up and get the offense rolling. And obviously it took away some momentum from their sideline,” Thompson said.

Now, Pittsburgh may get Minkah Fitzpatrick back into the fold, which will be a massive boost to a team starting to find its groove. However, Thompson might be a hidden gem they have pulled out of nowhere.