Is Lawrence Timmons The New Troy Polamalu Of The Steelers Defense?

By Jeremy Hritz

There is no question that Ben Roethlisberger is critical to the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, and that his absence from the lineup encumbers the unit’s potential. His unique skill set provides a variety of offensive possibilities that challenge defenses in ways that no other quarterback can.

Troy Polamalu used to be Roethlisberger’s equivalent on the defensive side of the football, delivering the banger in the clutch to redirect fading momentum. Now, at age 32, Polamalu is entering his 11th season with the Steelers, and his ability to conjure up the splash plays that he has so long been known for is greatly in question, primarily due to his difficulty to stay healthy.

In 2009 and 2010 combined, the Steelers were 6-7 without Polamalu in the lineup, and his presence was key to the success of the defense. After another injury-ridden 2012, Polamalu’s legendary role on the defense has dimmed a bit, and heading into 2013, it is another defender that is essential to the success of the Steel Curtain, and that player is Lawrence Timmons.

This past season was Timmons’ best, and though he didn’t finish with career highs in total tackles or sacks, his play was explosive, and of any defender, he demonstrated the ability to make a play when needed. There is no greater example of this than against the then 1-8 Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 when Timmons picked off a Matt Cassel pass and returned it 23 yards to set up the game-winning field goal. Had Timmons not have made that play, the Steelers playoff aspirations would have died much sooner than they unfortunately did.

Timmons was ranked as the fourth-best inside linebacker by Pro Football Focus as a result on his dual-talents of stopping the run and covering the pass, the latter being something that he excelled at in 2012, picking off three passes, a career high, and returning one for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns. Timmons also accounted for six sacks, including two in each of the final two games of the season against Cincinnati and Cleveland.

In 2011, Timmons saw a drop in his production, mainly due to playing out of position at outside linebacker when James Harrison was injured, and this came after a 2010 season in which he posted a career-high in tackles (135). This past season, Timmons proved just how effective he can be, and heading into year number seven, there is reason to believe that he is just now entering the prime of his career.

Timmons was the best player on the Steelers defense in 2012, and there is no reason to believe that will change this coming season. With the current dearth of talent and depth at the inside linebacker position, losing Timmons to an injury could have a stultifying effect on the defense, leading to an inability to stop the run, and consequently, the inability to keep opponents off of the scoreboard.

Thankfully for the Steelers, Timmons has been an exemplar of health throughout his career, except for a minor groin issue. If the Steelers are going to return to the postseason, a healthy Timmons, the new Troy Polamalu of the defense, is a requirement.

  • Jon Crissinger

    This begs the question of what contingency plan exists if Timmons does get injured this season? Larry Foote and rookie Vince Williams?

  • steeltown

    Not sure Vince will play MACK LB… it would probably be Marshall McFadden or Sylvestor (whoever wins that battle in training camp) Im pulling for McFadden guy seems to have a nose for the football, looked damn good in training camp and preseason last year and apparently can play both MACK and BUCK

  • steeltown

    Timmons is awesome, 2nd only to Patrick Willis heading into 2013 in my opinion..

  • dgh57

    Timmons has come a long way since he was drafted! Many questioned him even being drafted by us. I saw a recent interview of him and he looked like he’s matured so much since his 1st year just in his appearance let alone his play! His #s are comparable to the top ILBs in the game and so his absents would be greatly felt for sure!! The best part is he’s just now entering his prime years!

  • John A Stewart

    His appearance ?

  • dgh57

    I agree, McFadden in the man!!! Unless one of the young LBs we have comes out of nowhere this TC! It’s do or die with Sly.

  • dgh57

    Yes, you would have to go back to his rookie year to compare them to know what I’m talking about. To me he didn’t look mature back then now he does! Getting older will do that to a person.

  • tpalya

    Timmons is overrated, not bad, not Troy.

  • westcoasteeler

    stultifying present participle of stul·ti·fy (Verb)
    Cause to lose enthusiasm and initiative, esp. as a result of a tedious or restrictive routine.
    Cause (someone) to appear foolish or absurd.

    Please, stay healthy my friend…

  • Christopher Wilkes

    By far, my favorite player on the Steelers defense. I never understood why so many fans were calling him a bust after his 2011 season. I’ll bet they’ll never admit saying it now anyways. He was a beast out there last year, but I don’t think you can compare him to Troy in the way he’s been used throughout his career.

  • sean mcmartin

    A healthy Troy P. and a healthy LT are a potent combo. If one more guy steps up, It could be interesting this season.

  • Jazz

    Of course he didn’t! He was only 20 yrs old.

  • Jazz

    WTF! Are you kidding me? He’s not overrated at all.

  • Busforever

    I think Dick Lebeau made this comparison a few years ago (or maybe Troy himself). He was speaking about the way LT was used in the defense, with his effectiveness in the box as well as in coverage.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Brian Rolle maybe.

  • Garrett Hunt

    My favorite player. Love the style and consistancy he plays with. I think the most similar aspect to his and Polamalu’s play is the freedom they are given.

  • steves

    Is it really Freedom or Aggressive play on LeBeau’s part? When Troy is down in the box, his assignment is break up the play before it starts. He is not given freedom when BLITZ is called, his “Role” is to get the QB before he has time to pass or dump the ball to his back.