2017 Offseason Questions: Will Lawrence Timmons Be Back?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Will Lawrence Timmons be back in Pittsburgh for an 11th season?

I have my opinion on this one, which I will get to later, but this is one of the big questions being posed for the Steelers in the buildup toward the offseason, and really the only question mark about a starting position: will Lawrence Timmons be retained and return for the 2017 season after serving as a starting inside linebacker for the past eight years?

Timmons was the first draft pick ever made by head coach Mike Tomlin during his ‘rookie’ season in that role in 2007. While he wasn’t plugged into the starting lineup right away, he showed during his first two seasons too many ways in which he proved to be an impactful player to hold him out much longer.

Larry Foote saw the writing on the wall and asked to be released to find a starting opportunity elsewhere in 2009, and Timmons began his Pro-Bowl form then, which lasted pretty much until he actually made the Pro Bowl, finally, in 2014.

There have been some down moments for the veteran in recent years, but actually I thought that he played very well at times down the stretch, and came up with some big plays for the defense, including a pair of interceptions during their regular-season winning streak, and a couple of close-out sacks in the postseason.

But he was paid very well for his services over the course of the past several years, and that resulted in a bloated salary cap hit after a number of restructures pushed cap accountability into the future. And it would be unrealistic to deny some on-field issues he has had with missed tackles and struggles in coverage.

But I personally do expect him to be back starting in 2017, though I’m not sure how much further it will go beyond that. Vince Williams is signed for two more years and has done reasonably well in his starting opportunities, but it’s not his time yet, and, if it ever does come, it will be as a bridge to the next long-term starter, I think.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Steve

    Steelers will part ways with Timmons. He was beginning to be a liability in pass coverage, and with resigning Vince Williams, it was writing on the wall that Timmons will not be back. Steelers still need youth on their D, would not be surprised if they draft a OLB to replace Harrison in the 2nd or 3rd round.

  • Jim Kirk

    I love Timmons but the recent trend on defense has been a youth movement (James Harrison aside). I genuinely want to see what Vince Williams can do with more reps and I’d like to see the Steelers spend that ~5M that it might take to keep Timmons on another position. Maybe another backup pass rusher or another player in the secondary or another tight end.

  • Paddy

    Vince Williams is good but he’s no Timmons.

  • He’ll be back. I’m willing to be on it. Whoever loses has to upvote the winners comments anytime he sees them on any article. And that will last all the way Until the Steelers 53 man roster is finalized in pre season. Any takers? Lol. First come first serve.

  • Ok I’m revising this a little bit so it makes more sense. Bet will be won either when Timmons is resigned, or when the Steelers 90 man roster is set before trainging camp. From that point, the loser upvotes all the winners comments he sees until week 1 regular season game

  • WreckIess

    I think they can afford to go with Vinny. They could try to find a hybrid kind of guy to sub in during some passing situations. That way we can work to eliminate some of the matchup issues that our buck ILBs have in coverage. I would be ok with them resigning Timmons, but I think If they want to keep running that kind of scheme, the position is going to need a bit of a new look.

  • francesco

    Timmons does not show up for most games. He has flashes of great play but it dwarfs in comparison.
    Sign Hightower instead for the same amount of money.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    except for being the teams lead tackler in almost every game. and season lead tackler.

  • capehouse

    I hope a 3 year contract averaging about $4 mil/year will bring him back. The only way I’d be comfortable with VW as a starter is if we found a $back and played a lot of Dime and VW was on the sidelines. The only problem with that is having to substitute a lot and a QB like Tom Brady would just use the no huddle and catch us with constant mismatches.

  • CP72

    Let’s dispense with two myths.

    1. Just draft someone in the 2nd and 3rd round to replace Timmons…This sounds easy, but draft history shows your more likely to miss with a draft pick than hit with one.

    2. Vince Williams is better than Timmons… I like Vince. He’s a thumper who brings a physical game that appeals to fans. Most forget that Vince was a two down linebacker in COLLEGE. The extension signed by Willams wasn’t “starter” money. I think the organization views him as top notch depth and a good special teams player. If he was better he’s had ample to show that and pass Timmons on the depth chart. He hasn’t done it.

    We’re a contender now. Bringing Timmons back on a two year deal makes the most sense. You want to try to draft his potential replacement that’s fine, but he’s a key piece that simply can’t be replaced in a snap of the fingers.

  • Hahahaaaa. Timmons a no-show. You know he plays for the Steelers right? What team you watch?

  • RickM

    Good, logical comment especially with Roethlisberger’s likely timetable. Spotrac tracks all UFA’s and makes market projections on some based on previous contracts for similar players statitically, with age factored in. They feel he’ll get a 3-year deal for around $6.2 M/yr on the market. I guess we’ll see what, if anything, the Steelers and Timmons can get done at a reduced rate.

    I think when ILB’s hit 30+ there’s always a tendency to focus on every mistake they make. I tend to accept that as part of the aging process. As long as there are significant other positives, I accept that some strengths have diminished. There is a point when the LB becomes a liability, but Timmons is probably 2 years shy of that as you suggest, or maybe 3 at the very most.

  • VaDave

    Yep. That about sums it up. Good post.

  • francesco

    Yes I watch him miss tackles. I watch him not covering TE closely. At times he will rush the quarterback with success but how often? I prefer V Williams at this point and get his back up in the draft. We can’t afford Timmons at his current salary.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Pretty much! I love the heart and determination of VDub but I’d be worried if he was penciled in as the starter. Timmons starts out slowly but he always seems to turn up for the majority of the season! I see a nice cheap deal getting done because he wants to be here and I think he hinted at playing for a discount before. 2yr deal is all I’m saying, then draft a stud in round 1 nxt year.

  • He misses some plays every now and then but I think you’re magnifying it. How often do they actually have him rushing the QB? I like Vince Williams, but to think he can do what Timmons does at this point, that’s a bit of a stretch I think. And he no longer has a current salary, and I doubt he expects a new contract making the same money he was last year. Plus, he restructured a bunch of times and that’s the main reason his cap hit was so big last year. If he would take 4 mil, I would sign him today.

  • Douglas Andrews

    He’ll be back for the right price. Part of the strategy should be to get a ILB that can cover and take Timmons off the field on passing downs especially 3rd down.

  • Conserv_58

    When it comes to whether to re-sign Lawrence or not fans need to separate their emotions from the cold, hard reality of the business side of the equation.

    There is no question that Lawrence has been a very good and consistent player for the Steelers for the
    past nine years. He routinely lead the team in tackles. He was solid as a rock, but he was never a dominant, game changing type player. That’s not to say he didn’t have highly productive games because he did, but the fact remains he was never regarded as an elite talent by his peers, hence the reason why he wasn’t selected to the pro bowl until 2014. He certainly was a team first guy, especailly given how many times he willingly restructured his contract to allow the team to extend other players they targeted.

    Fast forward to today and fans will say that Law Dog had a great 2016 season, especially down the stretch therefore they need to re-sign him. That observation comes with a caveat, in that, Lawrence had added incentive to elevate his play this past season because he was in a contract year. You’d be fooling yourselves if you think the Steelers don’t realize that. They’ve seen this scenario play out hundreds of times. The ultimate question for them and Lawrence is, how much does Timmons have left?

    IMO, the Steelers don’t see his future as an every down starter because they know that Lawrence’s veteran experience and savvy supersede his diminishing physical attributes. Therefore, I think that if Lawrence hopes to re-sign with the team he has to do so knowing that the Steelers see him as being a valuable back up and his salary must reflect that reduced role. If Lawrence goes into negotiations expecting to return as a key starter, with a salary to match, the Steelers will not re-sign him.

  • AndyR34

    I thought that was why we drafted Shazier…for coverage duty? After all…he is so much faster, and younger, etc., etc.

  • AndyR34

    So…who led the team in missed tackles (?)…Shazier…the young one…had 30 to Timmons 20. Who led the team in tackles (?)…Timmons with 114 to Shazier’s 87. True…Shaz had 1 more int, and 2 more fumbles recovered, so I’d say their ‘production’ is about equivalent. Nobody is calling to cut Shazier.

  • Conserv_58

    You are correct. On the other hand, if they don’t sign Timmons the only other ILB they have that can play above the neck is Vince Williams. The problem with Vince’s game is he’s not an every down back because he’s not fast enough to be an asset in coverage. His forte’ is as a run stuffer. That means, like Timmons, he would be taken off of the field in passing situations. They need to draft another ILB that can play both the run and cover.

  • The Chin

    Are you saying Vinnie is able to cover? Lord I disagree if that’s your contention

  • RickM

    Pretty much any LB can be targeted through play design. I just don’t sweat this stuff like some do when a guy is 30 years old. LB’s traditionally have trouble staying with some receivers and even Shazier gets beat. I remember on our final drive against Baltimore we beat C.J. Mosley three times.

    I am not suggesting that it might not be a good idea to take Timmons off for some third downs. But the issue is exagarrated right now. There will come a time where he becomes an absolute liability in coverage like Foote (with Arizona) and Farrior became, but he’s not there yet as much as some suggest he is.

  • WreckIess

    No.

  • The guy is a beast! Lead the team in tackles (114 total with 78 solo). I would hope he’s back next season.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Correct the idea behind drafting Shazier was to get more speed coverage ability on the defense as well as a playmaker. Timmons has been great against the run but his coverage skills are a liability. No one expects him to run with WR’s but he has trouble carrying TE’s down the seams as well as some of his zone drops unless he’s in the red zone where he was able to make some plays last season. Teams are smart just like they would match up a RB on Potsie towards the end of his career teams will isolate Timmons out in coverage. I do like Timmons rushing from the outside but how long will take for teams to figure it out and create a matchup against him. Steelers need a guy that can come in on 3rd downs and passing downs that can be a threat to rush the passer or drop in coverage effectively IMO.

  • Bartley Walter

    Really dude..5 mil on a back up Instead of giving it to a guy who averages over 100 tackles a year… Really?

  • Bartley Walter

    What game you be watching

  • Bartley Walter

    My thoughts exactly…

  • RickM

    He’s just watching games with a built-in bias, likely salary-based. Not sure how we are supposed to pay Hightower $10 M a year (which he will get), when we have all of our own stars to pay.

  • RickM

    He has no salary. He’s an unrestricted free agent. The only reason he had that high salary cap figure last year was because the Steelers asked him to re-structure his contract a couple of times. That’s not on him. He helped the team get within the salary cap when they needed him to.

  • Matthew Marczi

    This is a classic case of what I call ‘Next Man Up Syndrome’, in which the backup is always better than the starter until the backup actually plays.

  • Matthew Marczi

    That contract projection sounds pretty reasonable in comparison to those signed by his contemporaries like Derrick Johnson. I wouldn’t be shocked if he were willing to take a bit less though given how much he’s already made.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Your position rests on the belief that his 2016 performance was notably superior to his play in 2015, which was not the case.

  • RickM

    I agree. It was actually less than I expected given what Johnson got at a much older age. Then again he’s a better player. It’s tough to know what the Steelers and Timmons are thinking. Ideally you’d like to go two years at $4.5M or maybe $5M/yr. LT probably will be looking for a three-year deal though. Hope you are right that they will work something out.

  • francesco

    Middle of the field is a big problem. TE are having a picnic with no push back and along with any RB the likes of JWhite. Timmons is now too slow and too old. We need to move on.

  • francesco

    The reason I brought up Hightower is for one reason. The only way the Patriots get weaker is if teams take away their better players.
    Butler, Ryan, Sheard etc.

  • RickM

    They have routinely lost key players – Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins this year are great examples as they refused to pay them. But it never matters as they just replace them. Belichick has several credos: he won’t pay really big money, and he accumulates as many draft picks as possible so he can replace the Jones’s, the Collins’s, the Hightower’s, etc. Even Brady is playing for way less than he could get elsewhere.

    He sets what he is willing to pay and if you’re not interested, he says adios. You want a ring? Accept my terms. Edelman is playing for $4.5 Million for goodness sakes. Belichick will not be troubled by Hightower’s departure, because he knows he’ll be able to replace him. Never seen anything like Belichick with his strategy and confidence, and results. Can’t stand him, but he is truly unique in terms of his cap management.

  • RickM

    He’s 30 for goodness sakes. Harrison is 38. Moving on is fine if you have a replacement and Williams isn’t it. If they don’t resign Timmons they better hit in the draft. As for other teams having a picnic with him in coverage, Butler and Tomlin must be incredibly stupid as they never take him off the field.

  • Rusted Out

    He’s no Timmons in his prime. Timmons is well past his prime and they just gave his backup a big contract.

  • Rusted Out

    I’m your huckleberry. That sounds like a solid, friendly, on-line bet. Although it would be great to have Timmons back in some capacity, they already paid Vince so… You’re on.

  • Rusted Out

    Nonsense. If we were talking about Gilbert or Mettenberger, I’d agree, but we’ve seen quite a bit from Vince, and old man river is knocking at Timmon’s door. Timmons cleaned some things up as the season went along, but I think he could fall off that cliff at any time like our recent SB defense retirees did.

  • Rusted Out

    Although I disagree with ur Timmons assessment, you’re dead on with the Pat’s strategy. I recently went back and checked on their draft picks from this year. It’s nothing short of amazing that they can wheel and deal to stock pile that many picks. Given the fact that their first rounders have been taken away twice in recent years, it makes it that much more impressive. Kinda makes the Steelers mantra, and recent strategy look pretty pathetic.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Are you agreeing with the person I responded to that Williams is currently better than Timmons?

  • Rusted Out

    Yup. I liked everything I saw from Vince this season, and not everything I saw from Lawdog. I’d like Timmons back in a limited capacity, but only for a Harrison like contract. I just don’t see the Steelers paying Timmons more than 3 mil / year, especially since they inked Vince to a decent deal.

  • Jason

    if you think Timmons is a liability in pass coverage, you haven seen Williams

  • lol awesome man. Look forward to this, GL 😉

  • Conserv_58

    No. My reference to his 2016 play highlights the fact that players in a contract year are highly motivated to elevate their play in order to cash in during contract talks. Lawrence is no different. There is also the hard cold reality that Timmons was also taken off of the field in 2015 and 2016 during certain passing situations because there is an undeniable and unmistakeable decline in his ability to cover. There is no question that Lawrence is no longer the every down linebacker he used to be. You can bet that this will be a key factor in the Steelers contract talks with his agent.

  • Conserv_58

    I agree with your evaluation of Timmons’. Then again, since Timmons and Williams are liabilities in coverage what is the point of paying two ILB’s, Timmons and Williams, to fulfill the same role?

  • Conserv_58

    What’s your point? Williams wasn’t a first round pick either. In fact, it was his lack of speed and lateral quickness that got him drafted where he was.

  • Douglas Andrews

    FA can provide some good situational guys such as pass rushers or possibly an ILB to cover. Another option I like is the in the box safety/LB. Probably a pipe dream but I do like Peppers from Mich in a role as such.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You do realize he was coming off the field in the dime earlier in this year as well until they decided to abandon the dime package, right? And that was more about Golden than Timmons. Overall, Timmons didn’t really have all that much of a better 2016 season than the year before. In fact, I don’t know that I would even say it was better.

  • Steve

    Williams is under contract and one of the hardest hitter on our D. Few years ago Vince was brought in on Passing downs.
    Timmons cost the Steelers over 8 mil last year, Is he really worth that much?

  • Steve

    Timmons was not cheap last year, was he worth the money?

  • Steve

    James has been my favorite Steelers for year but would not be surprised to see the Steeler depart with him. They need youth and a future OLB. James has been good with the Steelers but he wants a Big payday and don’t think that will happen.