ShareThis Page

Linebacker Timmons' stock up with Steelers

| Friday, Sept. 9, 2011

James Farrior described a recent hit on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, and the Steelers' venerable inside linebacker punctuated his play-by-play with a "Pow!"

What he said about Lawrence Timmons, who delivered the jarring hit, proved to be even more of an eyebrow-raiser than Farrior getting animated about a play that happened in a preseason game.

"I really feel like he can be the best defensive player in the league," Farrior said.

Farrior is hardly alone among his teammates in his belief that Timmons stands at the brink of a breakout season.

The push from good to great starts Sunday in Baltimore, where the renewal of arguably the best rivalry in the NFL will feature stellar play from star-studded groups of linebackers.

No 'backer on either team might be more on the rise than Timmons, given the five-year, $50 million contract he signed last month and that Farrior isn't prone to hyperbole.

When told of Farrior's statement, Timmons said in surprise, "Oh really. That's a heck of a statement there."

Indeed it is considering the wealth of defensive talent concentrated in the Steelers' locker room. Among three of the past NFL Defensive Player of the Year winners are strong safety Troy Polamalu (2010) and outside linebacker James Harrison ('08).

There also is outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who has recorded at least 10 sacks in his first three seasons as a starter, joining Harrison as the only players in Steelers' history to accomplish the feat.

Not that Timmons is a newcomer to the hits parties the Steelers' defense throws on a regular basis. He led the Steelers in tackles (149) in 2010, despite fading a bit in the second of the season.

And the 15th overall pick of the 2007 draft, coach Mike Tomlin's first with the Steelers, blew his cover long ago — at least among teammates who marvel at his ability to hit like a falling tree and shadow tight ends and running backs in pass coverage.

"He's got a huge burst to the ball," Polamalu said. "He's very instinctual."

When asked if the 6-foot-1, 234-pound Timmons, who also can play outside linebacker, is the best athlete on the Steelers' defense, Polamalu said, "Probably."

Timmons has taken awhile to find his footing since there are so many established players around him, but that isn't the only reason.

He played just three seasons at Florida State before declaring for the 2007 NFL Draft. Football became his job before he had celebrated even his 21st birthday.

That helps explain why, as Farrior said, "I didn't know what his voice sounded like when he got here. He wasn't saying anything in the meeting room."

Timmons won't get any votes for chattiest player on the team. But he does seem more comfortable in a locker room that is filled with dominant personalities.

"I was 20 years old, so there's quite a difference," Timmons said. "I guess I've grown up some."

Timmons celebrated his 25th birthday in May, and he and Woodley, 26, head the vanguard of young players with which the Steelers plan to one day reload.

Woodley said neither he nor Timmons has played his best football.

"We haven't outright made it to the Pro Bowl yet," said Woodley, who made the Pro Bowl as a reserve in 2009. "This year, hopefully, we'll get that opportunity."

Men in the middle

The Steelers aren't the only team associated with top-shelf linebackers. "The Steelers and the Ravens, I think, are by far the quality linebackers of this league," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Thursday. Here's a look at the Ravens' starting linebackers:

OLB — Terrell Suggs: Four-time Pro Bowler has 10 1/2 career sacks against Steelers, his second-most against any opponent.

ILB — Jameel McClain: Finished third on Ravens in tackles last season (91), his first one as a starter.

ILB — Ray Lewis: Has 305 tackles in 25 career games against the Steelers, the most stops he has against any team.

OLB — Jarrett Johnson: Has played in 113 consecutive regular-season games, the longest streak in Ravens' history.

Source: Ravens

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.