During this stage of the offseason, only the team website is allowed to formally interview Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coaches, so getting the chance to hear from them isn’t necessarily such a common occurrence.
The website put up some quotes of value from John Mitchell, Carnell Lake, and Keith Butler yesterday, as well as from head coach Mike Tomlin, discussing some of the developments throughout the team over the past few months.
The major theme running through the comments shared from Tomlin and Butler related to their new inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, and how his inclusion into the lineup is going to influence those around him on defense. Tomlin first talked about how Shazier reminds him of the first draft pick he ever made, Lawrence Timmons.
“[He reminds me of] Lawrence Timmons in a lot of ways. We drafted Lawrence seven, eight years ago, Lawrence was a 220-something pound linebacker who was adept at running and hitting. I think you can say the same thing about this young man”.
Because they were so similar coming out, some wondered about the value of having both of them on the field together. But Timmons has grown into a bit of a different player since he was first drafted, in no small part due to becoming bigger, and Tomlin talked about how he will fare transitioning from the mack, where he’s played his entire career, to the buck:
Lawrence showed his versatility a year ago after we lost Larry Foote. We’re very comfortable with being able to move Lawrence around to accommodate whoever he’s working with. I think he’s earned that and proven that over the course of his career. It’s about getting the very best players on the field. Make no mistake, Lawrence Timmons is going to be on the field.
In fact, Timmons ended up playing at the buck, or a pseudo-buck position, frequently last season after losing Larry Foote. The Steelers frequently played in their dime defense following the injury, which took an inside linebacker off the field.
That either left Timmons on his own or working alongside strong safety Troy Polamalu. In either situation, Timmons would most often essentially be the buck linebacker, including calling the defense.
Still, the Steelers are hoping to be able to ask less of Polamalu this season in the hopes of being able to keep him at safety for the most part. Butler, the linebackers coach, talked about Polamalu’s role last year in sub-packages and how that sometimes even extended to second-down type situations:
“We were playing Troy on second down in that situation, too. I think (drafting Shazier and Tuitt) will take a little pressure off him, and maybe on third down we’ll have a new package for everybody. We have some ideas”.
The idea, of course, is that the inclusion of Shazier will prevent the Steelers from being forced to move Polamalu up to the second level so frequently. Rather, when you see him there this season, it will be by design as part of a set package.