Kovacevic: Hey, let's give Timmons a hand
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It took Mike Tomlin the entirety of 264 words to get through what he called the Steelers' “laundry list of injuries” a couple days ago. And he did so as casually as ever, in that classic NFL injury parlance that cites nothing more than the existence of a given anatomical part.
You know …
“Kelvin Beachum has some right ribs,” the coach began.
Good thing, too. Can really help a man breathe.
“Brett Keisel has left ribs.”
Stands to reason, given Beachum having some on the other side.
“LaMarr Woodley has a right knee.”
Bet there's a match for that, too.
“Lawrence Timmons broke his left hand. That's been casted. He's ready to go.”
“That happened late in the third or early in the fourth quarter of the game,” Tomlin proceeded without pause, dramatic or otherwise. “He was able to finish. We fixed it. He has full mobility in all of his fingers, but it has been secured with a cast.”
And … nobody's talking about this?
Let's rectify that right here and review that 19-16 victory Sunday over the Ravens for a full hindsight-is-20/20 appreciation of one of the great individual performances in Heinz Field history: Timmons registered 17 tackles, 12 of them solos, per official NFL statistics. But the Steelers' internal film study — done by coaches and far more meticulous — had him at 20 tackles, 17 solos.
Roughly one-third of Baltimore's 61 offensive plays!
If you count another tackle on a play nullified by penalty, it would be 21!
And, yeah, six of those came after Timmons' hand was broken coming down on the helmet of Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda early in the fourth quarter.
Shouldn't someone be writing a folk song about this?
“Nah,” Timmons was telling me Wednesday. “When you're playing, you've got adrenaline. You're not really thinking about it. You're just playing. You're out there trying to make every play.”
Here are a few stanzas for the folk song:
• The 17 official tackles were most by anyone on the Steelers since Dewayne Washington had that many in 2001 against the Bengals, according to Stats LLC. But Jon Kitna threw 50 times that day, and Washington was just doing damage control in coverage.
• The 17 tackles tie for third-most in the NFL this season.
• If looking at 20-tackle performances, there have been only 16 in the league since 1994. The most were the 24 of the Jets' David Harris in 2007.
Steve McLendon, nose tackle: “Amazing. Just amazing.”
Cam Heyward, defensive end: “The man brought his hard hat. We're very appreciative of it.”
Keith Butler, the Steelers' tell-it-like-it-is linebackers coach: “It was a hell of a performance. The best game I've seen him play. It's not like he's not capable of doing it. He is. Some days you get in positions to make those plays, and he made them.”
Butler, like the rest of us, wasn't fully aware of what he was witnessing at the time.
“I didn't even know Lawrence broke the hand until Mike told me the next day,” Butler said. “I told L.T., ‘If you'll play like that, we'll break the other one.' ”
As for Timmons downplaying the pain, fellow linebacker Jarvis Jones laughed that off: “I played with a broken hand in high school, and I can tell you, it hurts. I mean hurts. We don't play a position like some others. You've got to tackle with your hands. You feel it.”
And what Timmons did?
“Man, I don't have words. That's why he's up there with the elite.”
Let me pile on, too: Timmons has been these Steelers' best player at any position, either side of the ball, all season. And don't let it go unrecognized that he's done not only his job but also that vacated by Larry Foote in that he calls all defensive signals and has dropped into pass coverage more than ever.
When I asked Timmons back at Latrobe if he could find yet another level after an excellent 2012, he responded without hesitation that he wanted to be “better in the film room.” That was it.
“It's still that,” he said. “It's about being a student of the game and about loving the game, and I feel I'm combining those two things and getting better. I love to be out there making plays for my team, and I'll do whatever it takes to make them.”
Dejan Kovacevic is a sports columnist for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.
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