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Steelers notebook: Second-year safety Thomas learned from best

| Thursday, May 29, 2014, 10:48 p.m.

Troy Polamalu may not be taking part in the Steelers' organized team activities (OTA), but that doesn't mean the Pro Bowl safety isn't contributing.

Second-year safety Shamarko Thomas said he keeps in constant contact with Polamalu, and he continues to get advice from his teammate.

“I talk to him all the time,” Thomas said. “He keeps telling me to get in that playbook, and that's what I am doing.”

Thomas had a baptism by fire last year as a rookie as he played free safety, strong safety, nickel back and was part of the quarters package that made the learning curve steep but rewarding.

“It was great for development learning the entire defense, and now I am comfortable because I know where I am supposed to be and where to make plays,” Thomas said. “I saw that is how Troy makes plays. He knows the entire defense and knows the weaknesses and makes plays off it.”

Thomas went down with an ankle injury in the ninth game that sidelined him for two games. He didn't take a defensive snap the rest of the year as Will Allen took his spot.

“I am more prepared this year, and that should help me,” Thomas said.

Porter motivates LBs

First-year defensive assistant Joey Porter has made an immediate impact with the team with his personality and especially his knowledge of the game.

“He knows what it takes to be great,” linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “He pushes me every day. He motivates us. He makes sure we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. He gets us right. He has the mindset of a football player. He showed that when he was playing. We are trying to do that as a linebacking unit.”

Brown chooses pads

Shoulder pads aren't permitted to be worn at OTAs unless you chose to do so. Antonio Brown, fresh off a 110-catch, 1,499-yard season, is choosing to do so. Brown is the only player to practice with full shoulder pads and game pants.

“I want to stay in shape and protect my shoulders,” Brown said. “Anytime you come out here, you want to come out ready to play and feel as much game-ready as possible.”

Team inks 5th-round CB

The Steelers signed fifth-round draft choice Shaquille Richardson, a cornerback from Arizona, to a four-year deal worth about $2.4 million.

The Steelers have signed five of their nine draft choices with their first four picks left unsigned in Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Dri Archer and Martavis Bryant.

Ex-Ole Miss OL signed

The Steelers signed rookie free agent offensive lineman Emmanuel McCray a day after claiming cornerback Deion Belue off waivers from Miami.

McCray (6-foot-5, 316 pounds) signed with St. Louis out of Mississippi on May 12 and was released three days later. To make room for McCray, the Steelers released guard Nik Embernate, who tore his ACL during training camp last year and has yet to be cleared to practice. Because Embernate was hurt last season, and the Steelers carried him throughout the season and paid him, they did not have to reach an injury settlement before releasing him.

Archer hits photo shoot

Archer was absent for the third consecutive OTA, but it wasn't an illness that kept him away for the first two. Archer was in Los Angeles taking part in the three-day NFLPA Rookie Premier Photo Shoot. There are 35 rookies represented by 28 teams at the event that runs through Saturday. Baltimore, San Diego, Dallas and Washington are the only teams not represented.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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