Lawrence Timmons Drop-off Last Season Merely An Aberration Due To Circumstances

The post on Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons by Jeremy Hritz from earlier this morning warrants an even deeper look at the drop-off the former first round draft pick had last season. Timmons finished tied for 50th in the league in 2011 with 93 combined tackles after finishing 8th in 2010 with 135.

The obvious reason that his tackle numbers dropped off last year was because of the injury to outside linebacker James Harrison, as Hritz noted in his post. When Harrison went down it forced Timmons into his spot at outside linebacker, where he obviously was not a fit and very uncomfortable. In his second start outside against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the former Florida State product did not even register a tackle or an assist. Over the four game span that he played outside he totaled just 12 combined tackles and 1 defensed pass.

In defense of Timmons, playing outside was not something he had much time to prepare to do. You have to remember that the lockout interrupted development for all players during the off-season and heading into the regular season Jason Worilds was slated to back up Harrison. Worilds was inactive for those four games that Timmons had to play outside in after injuring a quad against the Houston Texans, so basically Timmons was thrust into a spot he hadn\’t taken a regular season snap at since 2008.

When Timmons returned to his normal position inside against the Baltimore Ravens in week 9, he was playing beside Larry Foote as James Farrior missed that game with an injury. Timmons recorded 4 tackles in that game of which all four were regarded as stops. He also only played 64 of the 81 snaps in that game in addition as he was the linebacker to come off the field when the defense went into their dime and big nickel sub-packages.

From that game forward Timmons recorded 47 total tackles over the course of the next 6 regular season games, an average of nearly 8 a game. Keep in mind that he played roughly another 30 snaps outside combined in the games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers as well.

In total I have Timmons down for nearly 300 snaps played at outside linebacker of his 990 regular season snaps played on defense. That equates to him being just 30 snaps short of playing a third of his defensive snaps out of position. When you look at his drop-off in total tackles from 2010 to 2011, it is roughly about a third of a drop.

Some will continue to argue that Timmons bulking up some affected his game, but I just did not see that. Others will point to him having a huge amount of missed tackles as well, but in fact that number was under 10 by my count. Sure his pressure on the quarterback both outside and inside, when asked to blitz, was non existent, but the Steelers defense as a whole did a poor job pressure wise in 2011. I think we can all agree on that. The loss of both Harrison and LaMarr Woodley at different times really had an impact.

Hopefully in 2012 Timmons will be able to play all 16 regular season games at his normal spot inside and that should allow him to return to his 2010 form, which will hopefully include a handful more of sacks in addition. The only thing that I think Timmons was guilty of last season was not being a good outside linebacker, but that is why he plays inside. He is a playmaker that is best suited being covered up inside that relies on the defensive line doing their job so that he can eat.

In summation, I think that the 2011 season of Timmons was an aberration of sorts and it had to be very frustrating for him to go through. There is no reason to think that Timmons will not be back in the top 10 in tackles in the league in 2012, assuming he stays healthy and plays at his normal spot inside.

  • Well, I’m not so convinced but I will take a wait and see approach. Its funny our defense last year wasn’t that good and it still was one of the better defenses in the league. That’s a little inflated since our schedule last year was kinda weak.

    Nevertheless, Woodley and Harrison really need to come up big this year. I’m concerned with Harrison’s injury because even when he came back he did not seem 100%. My concern for Timmons is that we have not seen him make that leap that many claimed his talent was going to produce. Is he a talented guy? Sure seems so but he’s yet to make a Pro Bowl.

    This is either his 6 or 7 year in the league and expectations were high. He’s been good for us but we were expecting great. His impact on the defense is big but not very noticeable. Why is that? We’ve seen Pola put his imprint on the game. Harrison and Woodley has put their imprint on the game. Farrior and Hampton in their prime put their imprint on the game.

    This guy get his stats quietly. I rarely see Timmons make a big play in the big moments of a big game. Most times when I watch, I forget he’s even on the field. Last year the coaches where lifting up Timmons for stepping in for Harrison. They claimed he was doing a fine job. Now looking back, we are claiming he really couldn’t play that position. Really? I like Timmons but I’ve moved on that he will be in the same league a Pola as a big time playmaker on this defense. I don’t see it. If he plays well to keep this defense at its best, I’m content.

    Still waiting to see him live up to that big contract. Maybe this is his year.

  • Rashaad

    he won’t make a pro bowl as long as ray lewis is playing unfortunately, he shouldve been there in 2010

  • Ahmad

    I gave Timmons a pass last year because he had to play all 4 LB spots and did all that was asked of him. This year he should be able to stay at ILB and return to 2010 form or better.

  • Without a doubt, he had tough circumstances last year. But my biggest concern with him is in the passing game. Dave, using your own stats on the passing, he allowed something like 73% of the passes thrown at his man to be completed (Farrior was worse). That is a huge concern for me as teams know to attack our middle now.

  • SteelersDepot

    Hard to put too much stock into completion percentage in zone coverages in my opinion. Brian Cushing, a rising inside linebacker star gave up a 76% completion rate. Sean Lee was nearly 80%.

  • True. It is a very simple metric. All I did was take your targeted vs completed stats for the 16 games and ran some numbers for them. Both Timmons and Farrior also gave up over 40% of the yards gained against them after the catch. I think overall that also shows that teams are targeting the inside more and more in zone defenses. Personally, I also think it correlates to our struggles on third and short.

    Less objectively, from what I see on the field, I am not convinced coverage is Timmons’ strong suit. He is athletic enough for it, and he certainly makes plays there, but I don’t think he has the football intelligence to ever really excel at it.