Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons only played on the defense’s opening possession, but it was a long, sustained drive that at one point seemed to have been stopped by Timmons on fourth and one.
The officials ruled on the field that Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert’s forward momentum gained two yards on the play, even with Timmons hitting the hole and stuffing him.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin challenged the ruling on the field, but the ruling was upheld due to lack of conclusive evidence. According to Mike Pereira, the league is emphasizing to officials this year that reviews must be conclusive to be overturned.
You can judge for yourself whether or not Tolbert reached the Steelers’ 36-yard line, which was the first-down marker, above. The defensive front did a good job of holding the line of scrimmage on this fourth-down play, all the while giving Timmons the avenue into the backfield to stop the ball carrier.
Timmons made the initial hit, partly a side swipe, and Ryan Shazier came in to finish him off. The Steelers’ initial reaction certainly suggest they believed they had made the stop, and I still think that they were right to assume that they had.
The officials, however, allowed the Panthers to extend their opening drive, which ultimately resulted in a field goal.
Two plays after the fourth-down conversion, the Steelers broke into their big nickel look for the first time this preseason, which forced Tolbert to try to win the corner rather than go up the middle. Timmons was waiting for him there, putting the initial hit on him and helping to bring him down for no gain on the play.
On the following play on third and long, the Steelers blitzed their inside linebackers up the middle, opening up the screen game, which the Panthers exploited for a first down on a 13-yard reception. Timmons and Shazier had to chase down the wide receiver coming from the backfield all the way down the field.
On the following play, however, Timmons nearly recorded an interception. With the outside linebackers bringing pressure on the quarterback, he rushed his throw to Tolbert, which was a bit behind the receiver. Timmons was there to defend the pass, and may have intercepted it if Tolbert had not gotten a hand on it.