By Jeremy Hritz
Last year provided Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons with not only a new six year, 50 million dollar contract, but an opportunity to expand his understanding of the Dick LeBeau 3-4 defense when he stepped in for four games at outside linebacker for James Harrison, who suffered a fractured orbital bone in the week four game against the Houston Texans.
At inside linebacker, Timmons has been dependable over the years against the run, and he has proven to be capable of disrupting plays before they develop in the backfield at times in addition. While Timmons did not have an awful year in 2011, his play was not as explosive and dominating as it had been in previous years, and whether or not that can be attributed to a switch of position in several games, or a less effective defensive line, is open for debate. Prior to the start of last season, many media pundits predicted that Timmons would have his best season, yet that belief never came to fruition.
Timmons, now in his sixth year, will enter the 2012 season looking to live up to his potential. Coach LeBeau has said about Timmons, "The sky is the limit for him." If ever there was a time for him to touch the sky, it will be this year. Timmons was a role player on the Steelers defense in 2007 and 2008, before assuming a starting role in 2009. He has since started for three full seasons at inside linebacker. While James Farrior’s age diminished his skills last season, his leadership will be missed in 2012. Larry Foote has been anointed as the defensive leader in the middle this off-season, but Timmons, though often described as reserved, will be just as important is filling that void.
Timmons was the first player drafted during the Mike Tomlin regime at pick number 15 in 2007, and the buzz that he generated was great. In his senior year at Florida State, Timmons recorded 79 tackles, 18 for loss, five sacks, and six pass deflections, yet he was still considered a raw prospect that would need time to develop. There were also concerns about his height, measuring in generously at 6’1; however, Kevin Colbert stated that Timmons played "tall" during his collegiate career.
Since Timmons began his career with the Steelers, he has consistently made plays, and occasionally ones that truly show how gifted he really is. However, it seems that every preseason, there is an undercurrent in the media that Timmons is poised for a dominating, breakout year, as if his performance has not equaled the expectations that followed him out of Florida State. It can be argued that Timmons best season occurred in 2010 when the Steelers won the AFC Championship and finished the season as the first ranked overall rushing defense, allowing only 62.8 yards per game, something that he contributed to with his 135 tackles. Regardless, it still seems that the expectation of play for Timmons is much greater.
Coming off of a good but not great season in 2011 in which he never seemed to achieve any consistency, Timmons is looking forward to a more productive season. On May 29th on his Twitter account, the former Seminole said that he is "Aiming for 12-14 sacks this year!" 12-14 sacks would definitely make for not only a career year for Timmons, but also an outstanding one for the Steelers defense as well.