For the first time in his career, Lawrence Timmons finds himself standing in a meeting room representing the old guard, the sage veteran whom others look up to for advice, as the most tenured member of the Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers.
Throughout his first seven seasons, there have always been veterans from which to learn, starting with James Farrior, the long-time buck linebacker whose position he will be inheriting for the first time in his eighth season.
Aside from him, there was Larry Foote, whose job he first took in 2009 following a Super Bowl championship. Foote saw the writing on the wall and asked for his release, only to rejoin the Steelers a year later as the backup and, eventually, Timmons’ running mate for the last two seasons as the defensive signal caller.
And then there was always James Harrison, the hardnosed man of little words who certainly led more by example on and off the field than with his tongue. Even LaMarr Woodley was his senior despite joining the team one round later in the same draft class.
But all four of those veterans are now gone, and it’s just Timmons surrounded by a bunch of young bucks, the most senior of which is the 26-year-old Jason Worilds, who started a career-high 11 games last season with his first year of meaningful production.
On the opposite side will be second-year player and first-year full-time starter Jarvis Jones, on whom much is riding this season. And next to him will be, for the first time in over a decade in a season opener, a rookie on defense in Ryan Shazier.
The other three starting linebackers in total have 29 starts to their names. Timmons has 78—and a Super Bowl ring.
And he will need to put that experience to use more than ever this year as he assumes the mantle of leader in the linebackers room, and as a leader of the defense as a whole as the team’s new defensive signal caller.
According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Jourdon LaBarber, Timmons has nearly 200 more career tackles than the rest of the linebackers on the entire roster combined, to give an example of just how wide the experience gap is.
Fortunately, LaBarber writes that Timmons has “embraced the role of mentor”, and “players have come to him when they seek guidance”.
“I try to do anything I can for them”, Timmons said about the other linebackers coming to him, adding, “on the field, off the field, anything”.
“Everything’s going well. The younger guys playing right now are trying to figure out the system, but we’re just getting started right now trying to build a foundation and get some reps under their belts”.
One thing is for certain, and that is that this unit has the pedigree to excel, boasting three first-round draft selections—including consecutive choices in the last two drafts—and a second-rounder among the starting group.
Now it’s just a matter of putting the work in and coming together as a unit within the bigger picture of Dick LeBeau’s defense. No doubt there will be a learning curve, especially for Shazier and Jones, as well as some on-the-job training, but the Steelers hope it’ll bear fruit by year’s end, and it’s up to Timmons to help nurture this group and guide them to the finish line.