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Gorman: Timmons doesn't want this to be final ride with Steelers

| Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, 8:30 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons has made 120 consecutive regular-season starts entering Sunday's playoff game against the Dolphins.

Lawrence Timmons sees himself as an unfinished product, feeling like he can always get better.

Perhaps that's how the 10th-year inside linebacker leads the Steelers with 114 tackles, his fifth straight season and sixth time in seven years with 100-plus stops.

But Timmons also is in the last year of his contract and knows this could be his final ride with the team that drafted him 15th overall in 2007 out of Florida State.

Timmons said “that's too much” for him to carry onto Heinz Field in Sunday's AFC wild-card game against the Miami Dolphins.

“When you've been here for 10 years, there's too many feelings,” Timmons said. “You can't carry that onto the field and play ball like you want to play. I'm all in here. I'm not trying to think about anything else.”

Timmons is focused on stopping Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, who rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-15 victory over the Steelers on Oct. 16 in Miami.

Timmons believes he personifies the bend-but-don't-break mentality of the Steelers defense and realizes what it takes to reach and win the Super Bowl.

“When you go to the playoffs, you have to step it up a notch,” Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “The intensity level has to go up. It has for him. I think he understands that. He's been down the road before that we're trying to go down now. …

“ ‘Law Dawg' has come around for us. He's playing hard. He understands the situation. He understands, hey, there are only so many shots you get at pursuing a world championship. He's had one, and he has a ring. He's been to two (Super Bowls). He knows what is required and, hopefully, he is going to help us.”

Timmons takes it upon himself to set an example for his teammates, whether it's by making 120 consecutive regular-season starts — the longest active streak among NFL linebackers — or by continuing to deliver performances that defy his age.

He made one of the biggest plays of the season when he intercepted an Eli Manning pass at the 2-yard line and returned it 58 yards to set up a touchdown in a 24-14 victory over the New York Giants.

“It's incredible to see him still make plays like that. You would never know how old he is,” Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “He makes a lot of spectacular plays when we need them, and he's been doing that for a long time. Guys definitely look up to him to make plays. We understand his physicality and that motivates us.”

It didn't go unnoticed that Timmons started and played every snap in the season finale against the Browns.

“I think it was important for guys to see that one of the guys who's been here for awhile was willing to do it,” Shazier said. “That makes everybody understand that they have to be willing to do the same.”

Cornerback Will Gay, drafted in the same '07 class, said Timmons doesn't just lead by example but knows when to motivate and when to add levity.

“Sometimes we'll be joking on the sideline, and that lets you know how loose he plays,” Gay said. “Things don't bother him. That's what he tries to put into people: play loose. It's football.”

Whether his play has proven to be indispensible will be determined in the offseason, but Timmons is determined to show his value this postseason so he can stay with the Steelers.

“I hope so,” Timmons said. “I love it here. I've been here for 10 years. I got drafted here. I have a lot of feelings, a lot of friends here. I can't think of being anywhere else other than here.”

And I can't think of anyone better to man the middle for these Steelers.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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