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Steelers rookie Timmons awaits chances

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Friday, Oct. 26, 2007

Steelers rookie linebacker Lawrence Timmons didn't avoid the question. He admits to being lost on the football field a few months ago.

"I was lost when I came here," said Timmons, a first-round draft pick from Florida State.

As the No. 15 overall pick joining a tradition-bound, defensive-minded team like the Steelers, on faces extra-large expectations.

Timmons believed he had all the answers, that his instincts, closing speed and playmaking ability assured him not only a spot on the roster, but also the opportunity to showcase his skills right away.

Entering Sunday's AFC North contest against the Cincinnati Bengals, Timmons has a team-high seven special teams tackles. But he has yet to have an impact at the position he was drafted to play.

Timmons, however, is enjoying his best week of practice at a time when the Steelers could use a few extra bodies on defense due to injuries. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, so don't be surprised if Timmons finally has some good luck as more than a special teams performer against Cincinnati's high-octane passing attack.

"I think the coaches are getting more comfortable with me," said Timmons, the Steelers' highest draft pick on defense since safety Troy Polamalu in 2003. "They keep asking, 'Are you ready, are you ready?' "

Timmons turned some heads this week in back-to-back practices with a couple of big-time plays that showed flashes of his anticipation and speed to the football.

Coach Mike Tomlin likes what he sees. Timmons is a superior athletic specimen with tremendous upside. Tomlin just wants to see it on a consistent basis.

"I think he's ready to play. But again, it's all about opportunity. He's got to be ready when his number is called," Tomlin said.

"No question, he's got potential. But they're not paid for potential. They're paid for results."

Timmons is late to the party primarily because of medical reasons. He missed the majority of offseason workouts and most of training camp because of a nagging groin injury. Compound that with losing valuable practice time, that made learning defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's sophisticated schemes 10 times more complicated.

Biding his time while waiting his turn, Timmons has internalized whatever frustration he may feel standing on the sideline.

"It's a situation that makes you better. You appreciate what you have when you work for it so hard," Timmons said. "Once you learn it, you respect the players that know it because it takes a lot of time to learn all these plays."

Even if Timmons knew the playbook backward and forward, there was still the matter of competing with veteran James Harrison (32 tackles, three sacks) for playing time at right outside linebacker. Timmons' initial paying time figures to come in dribs and drabs rather than chunks.

Still, Timmons' time will come. Considering the Steelers are entering the meaty part of their schedule with some key members missing on defense, it could be sooner than later.

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