Everything looked bright for Inside Linebacker Lawrence Timmons after the 2010 season came to a close. The fifth year Linebacker had just come off of a Pro Bowl-esque season in 2010 in which he racked up career highs in Tackles (135) and Interceptions (2). In addition, Timmons recorded 3.0 Sacks, and led the team in Tackles for Loss with 8. Unfortunately for Lawrence, 2011 was a tough year on him, and the rest of the Defense in general.
Inconsistent play and an overall inability to force Turnovers at critical moments hurt Pittsburgh’ Defensive players in 2011. Nothing however plagued the Steelers’ Defense worse last season than injuries to some of their best players, especially the ones at the Outside Linebacker position. With LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Jason Worilds, and Chris Carter all injured for significant periods of time at one point or another, Timmons had to shift outside and play out of position for them for a significant chunk of the year.
Overall, Timmons started four games and played a significant amount in another three as well at Outside Linebacker. And despite the former Seminole’s best efforts to play a position he had not seen significant time at since his college days in 2006 (in a 4-3 system no less), his productivity and overall play took a major hit last season when he played Outside (93 Tackles, 2.0 Sacks, 1 INT, 2 FF’s).
While Timmons’ best efforts to play another position other than the weakside “Mack” spot he had manned for three seasons was less than stellar in 2011, it has not stopped the team from asking him to spend at least some time at another Linebacker spot during this current Training Camp period. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Timmons has actually started to take some reps at the strongside Inside Linebacker “Buck” position. I for one believe that this is yet another solid move by Pittsburgh’s Coaching Staff, and could pay dividends for the team if Timmons is forced to move around due to circumstances beyond his control.
Added Benefits of Timmons Gaining Experience at “Buck”
Because the “Buck” plays such an important role in the Steelers’ Defense (Buck calls out the Offensive formations and sets Defense pre-snap) it should behoove Pittsburgh’s coaching staff to at least give their Linebacker with the best athletic/experience combo some reps at the position. The more guys like Timmons (as well as Stevenson Sylvester) which understand the Defense’s most important position behind starter Larry Foote, the better. And if injuries occur next to #94 (especially this season), he would be able to shift over for an extended period and play the “Buck” for however long he is needed until the starter’s return.
Timmons gaining some reps here and there could also help in the event that Foote or Sylvester are not deemed the long-term solutions at the “Buck,” and Pittsburgh is forced to search for a new starter in a season or two. At only 26, Timmons has at least another 5-7 seasons of top-level production in him, and a transition to the Buck spot in a couple of years would hopefully allow now-Rookie Sean Spence to step into the starting “Mack” role come 2014. By finding solutions to future problems already on their roster like Timmons, Pittsburgh would be able to address other areas of need in future Draft classes (Tall & Field Stretching WR, Multiple Safeties, Outside/Pass Rush Linebacker).
Regardless of where Timmons finds himself playing at this season or over the rest of his career with the Black & Gold, it makes me happy that there are players on the Steelers’ roster like him. Guys who are willing to step up in emergency scenarios, regardless of whether or not their skill-sets suit them best for their new position, and simply ready to go “an extra mile” and make themselves available to help. Hopefully Timmons can learn enough on the short term on the fly at the “Buck” spot during Training Camp, and if the time arises for him to step in and play, he does an adequate job. Injuries and inconsistent play did a number the Steelers’ Linebacking corps last season, and if injuries or poor play strike Foote or Sylvester in 2012, and Sean Spence is not ready to play, Timmons’ presence, athleticism, and productivity from the Inside could be an invaluable asset to this team this year and for however long he is needed to man the “Buck.”
Stats Courtesy of: Pro Football Reference.com