Another week and another ESPN Power Rankings list and this time it involves the linebacker position. Both of the Steelers outside linebackers, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, cracked the top 10 with Harrison finishing 2nd and Woodley finishing 8th according to the ESPN bloggers. 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis came in first as he received 3 first place votes, 3 second place votes and 2 third place votes. Harrison received only 2 first place votes and just 1 second place vote. Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons finished 15th overall and only garnered 2 10th place votes.
As Mike Sando points out in his blog post, comparing linebackers from 3-4 schemes to their 4-3 counterparts proved problematic for some panelists. That is certainly understood as different schemes rely on different skill sets for the most part. I think they would of been better off separating the inside guys from the outside guys if they were not going to rank them by scheme. Lord knows they still have plenty of time to do it with the labor situation still going on.
Overall it is hard to argue with rankings, but I am a bit surprised that Timmons didn\’t finish a notch or two higher. He was all over the field for the Steelers in 2010 and led the team in total tackles with 135, 7 more than Willis. He also had 11 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions as well. Throw in the 3 sacks and he truly was an all purpose type linebacker. He even out-ranked Willis on the Pro Football Focus ratings for 2010 as he finished first.
You could make a strong argument that Woodley should of finished another spot or two higher as well as he finished with 10 sacks and 7 passes defensed according to the NFL.com stats. Throw in 2 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles and you have another great all around linebacker. It is not his fault his tackles were so low as Timmons and the defensive line did their job against the run.
Once again these list are subjective and of course I am a little biased. Having 3 of the 4 Steelers linebackers make the top 15 is pretty refreshing and supports how dominate of a group the Steelers have at the position. I guess I can live with it.