Timmons feels ready to show his best
Lawrence Timmons is bigger and faster.
The former No. 1 draft choice is a heck of a lot stronger and has been healthy, too, something he wasn't last year.
The only question that remains is if Timmons is going to be better.
He thinks he is going to be much better - try accumulating somewhere around 17 or 18 sacks, or a third more than he has collected over his three-year career, better.
"I definitely want to be the guy who can get the sacks," Timmons said. "I always loved the sacks. I had seven last year, but I feel that I could've had way more."
Nobody is dismissing Timmons' claim. Even though he has had three quite uneventful NFL seasons, the talent is there to be a superstar.
"He's playing a lot faster. He has the ability and potential," fellow inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "I see him coming into his own. It is just a matter of time. I don't think we've seen the best of him yet."
Neither has his linebacker coach Keith Butler.
"I'd be surprised if he didn't have a good year," Butler said. "He's one of the most explosive hitters on defense."
Timmons prepared for a breakout year in the offseason like a star in waiting.
He was a self-proclaimed workout warrior, putting on more than five pounds of muscle to get to 248 pounds - the heaviest of his career -- so he could be stronger at the point of attack.
"I am growing up now and definitely know what to expect and how to play the game," Timmons said. "I need to do it at a higher level than I have done in the past three years."
And he needs to stay healthy - something he didn't do last year.
Timmons suffered a left high ankle sprain in the preseason then injured the right ankle in the middle of the season.
Timmons' season quickly became a bust.
Now, Timmons did have career highs in tackles (86) and sacks (7), but he never became the difference maker on a defense that needed one.
"Watching Timmons last year, he started to put it all together before the injuries slowed him down," outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley said.
Timmons missed two full games with his ankle injuries and part of another, but he never was truly healthy the entire year.
"I just hate the fact that I had those injuries that set me back," Timmons said. "Stuff like that happens. Toward the end of the year, for sure, I was getting back to my old self."
Timmons showed flashes of what he is capable of doing when he sacked Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco twice during a late November game and two weeks later in Cleveland when he collected a career-high 13 tackles.
But Timmons has yet to put it all together all at once.
"This is going to be his breakout year, trust me" Farrior said. "He could be one of the best in the league as soon as he gets it all together. Once the game starts slowing down for him and he understands and stays healthy, the sky is the limit. He is just a freak of nature."
Timmons is a natural outside linebacker but is so versatile that he was almost instantly moved to inside. He can play three linebacker positions and possibly even the buck inside spot if needed in a pinch.
"You can probably put him back there at the safety position as well," Woodley said.
With guys like Woodley and James Harrison holding down the outside linebacker slots, Timmons' spot has been on the inside.
"Is he as effective as Woodley and Harrison• I don't think so," Butler said. "But the guy deserves to be on the field because he's got as much talent as anyone."
The Steelers keep him on the field as much as any other linebacker, too. He plays all three downs including in the nickel package that could open up more sack opportunities for him.
But for as many as 17 or 18?
"We'll have to make it happen," Timmons said. "Being able to stop the big run plays and get into the backfield. I just like to swoop in and make plays in the backfield. But in the end, I want to have a better year than I had last year."