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Timmons ready to step outside

Dick LeBeau has been around long enough to know that moving from inside to outside linebacker in his 3-4 zone-blitzing scheme will be a "significant adjustment" for Lawrence Timmons.

Timmons isn't about to disagree with the significance of the move for Sunday's game against Tennessee at Heinz Field, but he isn't buying the adjustment part.

"It is easier for me because I've done it before," Timmons said.

With James Harrison out several weeks with a broken orbital bone that required surgery, the Steelers will shift their leading tackler from a year ago from inside linebacker to outside, which he played regularly in college.

"He has true game experience outside," LeBeau said. "He has played outside linebacker in the National Football League and just not a snap or two. We feel good about the experience factor there."

The Steelers envisioned Timmons as an outside linebacker and the heir to Joey Porter when they drafted him in the first round in 2007 out of Florida State.

That plan was scrapped when Harrison emerged as a defensive-player-of-the-year-caliber outside linebacker and LaMarr Woodley, the second-round pick in 2007, asserted himself as franchise-type player by his second season.

Timmons had nowhere to go but inside with a contingency plan of moving him outside if needed. That contingency plan goes into effect Sunday against the surprising Titans (3-1).

"He'll be fine," safety Ryan Clark said. "That was his original position, a position he was really drafted to play until James Harrison became James Harrison."

In his first year as a starter last season, Timmons led the team in tackles, and had three sacks and two interceptions. He signed a five-year, $50 million contract in August.

"I know you can't replace Harrison, but there isn't any drop-off with Timmons," inside linebacker James Farrior said.

Timmons started twice at outside linebacker in 2008, once for Woodley and once for Harrison.

Outside the box
Lawrence Timmons will play outside linebacker Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, filling in for the injured James Harrison. Here are Timmons' career statistics at outside and inside linebacker:
Pos Starts Tackles Assists Total Sacks Ints
ILB 32 183 77 265 10 1
OLB 2 11 7 18 0 0

He had six tackles in replacing Woodley against the Indianapolis Colts and 12 more in the regular-season finale against Cleveland. However, the most telling play of his ability at the position came when he intercepted New England's Matt Cassel while covering a running back in the flat and returned it 89 yards late in a November 2008 game.

"I'm pretty comfortable with this because I've been playing the whole week at outside, and me and the coaches have been sprucing up the little things that I haven't seen in a while," Timmons said.

The Steelers defense could use a spark. Despite being second in overall yardage, the Steelers already have allowed two 100-yard rushers, are 22nd in the league in stopping the run, have created only one turnover and are on pace for their fewest sacks since 1988.

The Titans are sure to test Timmons, who will spend most of the game lining up against one of the top tackle in the league in Michael Roos.

"I'll be fine," Timmons said. "It's all football. If I do my assignment, I'll be fine."

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