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Linebacker Timmons leaves Steelers for Dolphins

| Friday, March 10, 2017, 4:54 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons plays against the Browns Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons sacks Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore during the fourth quarter Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, at Heinz Field.

The Steelers got a glimpse last season of what inside linebacker Vince Williams could do alongside Lawrence Timmons.

In 2017, the Steelers will discover what Williams can provide in place of Timmons.

With Timmons signing a two-year, $12 million contract with the Miami Dolphins on Friday, ending his 10-year tenure with the Steelers, Williams will be tasked with replacing his durable and consistently productive former teammate.

The Steelers foresaw the possibility of Timmons' departure in free agency last August when they signed Williams to a three-year, $5.5 million contract.

When inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was injured early in the season, Williams stepped in and made four consecutive starts. The first two were memorable.

In Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Williams had a team-high 15 tackles, including 13 solo. He also had a sack.

In Week 5 against the New York Jets, Williams recorded nine tackles (eight solo), a sack, three tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits.

This season, the 27-year-old Williams will play alongside Shazier in an attempt to match Timmons' health and productivity.

Timmons, who turns 31 in May, has played in 120 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak among linebackers. He also has made 101 consecutive regular-season starts, also the longest active streak at the position.

The first draft pick of Mike Tomlin's coaching career, Timmons also surpassed 100 tackles in six of the previous seven seasons and led the Steelers in tackles in each of the past four seasons.

In his final year with the Steelers, Timmons had 114 tackles and 2 12 sacks. In the playoffs, he had two sacks in the wild-card win against Miami and 14 tackles in the AFC championship game loss to New England.

“I love Steeler Nation,” Timmons told Miami reporters after his signing. “You always respect what you're true to. It's a new thing being here with the Dolphins. That's what I love, but sometimes change is not so bad.”

Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward wished his former teammate well Friday in a Twitter post.

“Tough to lose a great teammate and friend but wish you nothing but the best,” Heyward wrote. “Don't get too tan out there. Keep ballin.”

Timmons was the second Steelers player to leave via free agency, joining wide receiver Markus Wheaton, who signed with the Chicago Bears on Thursday.

Timmons made $8.75 million last season and counted $15.13 million against the salary cap.

Timmons flew by private jet to Miami on Friday morning and agreed to terms in the afternoon.

“I love the energy here,” Timmons said. “I just felt it was fitting.”

The Steelers have not signed a player outside their organization since free agency began at 4 p.m. Thursday.

After retaining backup quarterback Landry Jones and tight end David Johnson on Thursday, the Steelers have approximately $18.8 million in salary cap space.

On Friday, Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert attended Auburn's pro day.

Auburn pass rusher Carl Lawson is a potential Steelers first-round draft pick.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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