Regardless of what happens in free agency, Lawrence Timmons will always be the first draft pick that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert made together. Aside from being a mild surprise, linebackers were seen as a strength going into the 2007 NFL Draft, picking Timmons also revealed an important change in how the Steelers approach to the draft would change under Mike Tomlin.
- Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers would favor youth in the draft, particularly in the 1st round.
You can see impact of that shift today – Lawrence Timmons was only 21 when the Steelers picked him and today 10 seasons under his belt he has yet to turn 31 as he seeks his third contract.
Extended Profile of Lawrence Timmons Steelers Career
Those who’re quick to label a draft pick “a bust” would be wise to acquaint themselves with Lawrence Timmons’ story.
- You can begin with the fact that the Steelers initially selected Lawrence Timmons to play outside linebacker.
Yes, you read correctly. Mike Tomlin’s initial 2007 training camp depth chart slotted Lawrence Timmons in at right outside linebacker behind James Harrison. It didn’t matter much. Injuries in the spring and during training camp limited Timmons’ opportunities to earn a spot on the field and he spent most of 2007 watching and/or playing special teams.
During the 2008 off season the Steelers shifted Timmons to inside linebacker with an eye towards replacing Larry Foote. Timmons excelled in preseason, and while he only started 2 games (both at outside linebacker) he made his presence known by:
- sacking Joe Flacco in the Steelers overtime win over the Ravens
- recording 2 sacks against Cincinnati
- returning an interception 89 yards against the Patriots
- strip sacking Joe Flacco in the December rematch, knocking them out of field goal range
Following Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers had seen enough to pencil in Timmons in over two-time Super Bowl starter Larry Foote. While Timmons started in 2009, the sailing wasn’t as smooth it seems now. He did register 9 sacks, but his play was inconsistent and he split time with Keyraon Fox.
In 2010 however, Timmons was a man on fire. He didn’t draw the attention that James Harrison or Troy Polamalu did, but he made critical play after critical play. The Steelers gave him Lawrence Timmons his second contract after the 2011 lockout ended, only to see Timmons struggle that season.
- But from 2012 to 2014 Lawrence Timmons was the Steelers most consistent, if not best defender.
Nonetheless, the emergence of Vince Williams in 2013 and Sean Spence in 2014 gave the Steelers an abundance of younger and cheaper options at inside linebacker. This led to ultimately fruitless speculation that Timmons would be a cap casualty or would be traded (not that this site didn’t fan some of those April first flames….)
Lawrence Timmons began 2015 by playing through an injury and he appeared to have lost a step as Ryan Shazier usurped him as the resident bad ass in the middle of the Steelers defense. Those doubts persisted during the first half of 2016, but Lawrence Timmons stepped it up during the back half of the season, making two interceptions and two sacks during the Steelers nine game winning streak.
The Law Dog, as Mike Tomlin calls him, topped it off with 2 sacks in the Steelers playoff win over the Dolphins.
The Case for the Steelers Resigning Lawrence Timmons
Lawrence Timmons will be 31 years old on opening day 2017 and will already have 10 seasons of experience under his belt. While age 31 is several years removed from being “young” in the NFL, Timmons has started every game for 7 straight seasons and hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2009.
- Timmons also is aware that age is impacting his ability, and he’s taken steps to counter that with his conditioning.
Lawrence Timmons knows the Steelers defense, and Keith Butler, Mike Tomlin and Jerry Olsavsky are intimately familiar with what Lawrence Timmons can do. Father time may indeed have robbed Timmons of a step, but Timmons strong finish to 2016 shows he’s still in that sweet spot where experience can compensate for a drop off in athleticism.
It is also fair to say that even at age 31, Lawrence Timmons probably brings more athleticism to the field than Vince Williams, his logical successor. Assuming his contract demands are not too high, there’s no reason to let him walk.
The Case Against the Steelers Resigning Lawrence Timmons
While Lawrence Timmons strong finish to 2016 was no mirage, the simple fact that it was necessary shows that Father Time is taking its toll. The Steelers have made a commitment to getting younger and faster on defense, and in that sense Timmons is a square peg in a defensive alignment filled with round holes.
- No, Vince Williams isn’t going to scare anyone with his speed or athleticism.
But in Vince Williams, the Steelers have a modern day Larry Foote, who alongside James Farrior gave the Steelers a powerful inside linebacking tandem that brought home Lombardi Trophies in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.
Moreover, the Vince Williams’ salary cap number is about 2.5 million for 2017, or about half of what it would take to keep Lawrence Timmons. Those are 2.5 million dollars the Steelers could spend to bolster the secondary and/or pass rush, instead of paying it to a 31 year old inside linebacker who is only going slower with each passing year.
Curtain’s Call on Lawrence Timmons and the Steelers
Lawrence Timmons has repeatedly affirmed his desire to stay in Pittsburgh. Both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert are on the record saying they want him back. When those two things happen, a deal usually gets done.
- Is it a slam dunk?
Hardly. The Steelers like Timmons, but their decision to resign Vince Williams last year signaled that they’re prepared to move on if necessary. Indeed, Kevin Colbert’s comment that Lawrence Timmons is free to test the free agency waters clearly indicates that the Steelers won’t get into a bidding war to keep Timmons’ in Pittsburgh.
Nor should they. But they likely won’t need to, and a James Farrior type deal for Timmons would benefit all parties and more or less ensure that the Law Dog remains a lifetime Pittsburgh Steeler.