Well-paid LBs a disruptive duo for Steelers
Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley aren't exactly polar opposites, but the Steelers linebackers have little in common on the football field.
Timmons is a quick, sure tackler with incalculable instincts. Woodley's aggression is more measured, partly because he relies on angles to pursue the ball.
They may possess different methods, but their varying styles are similarly effective. So, it was hardly surprising that Steelers' general manager Kevin Colbert manipulated a way to keep his relatively young linebackers off the open market.
Timmons and Woodley — first- and second-round picks in 2007 — both signed long-term deals worth more than a combined $110 million soon after the NFL Players Association and the majority of team owners reached an agreement to end a sixth-month lockout.
Admittedly, the hefty payday heightened the expectations of the youngest starters on an experienced defense.
"When we signed those deals, it was important for us to elevate our game," Timmons said. "At the same time, you don't want to force things because you can't be yourself.
"I can't really say we are the bedrocks of the defense. It's not true right now. We have so many playmakers. If we do our jobs, things will come our way."
NFL Defensive Players of the Year Troy Polamalu (2010) and James Harrison ('08) are marquee names on the league's stingiest defense in 2010. However, Timmons and Woodley have quietly evolved from role players to leading men.
"We take pride in freeing those guys up so they can do their thing," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "It's been the mentality around here for years."
Timmons and Woodley will attract plenty of attention when the Steelers (1-1) play the struggling Indianapolis Colts (0-2) at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday night, partly because of the high expectations.
"I don't need incentives or a new contract to motivate me," Woodley said. "I'm motivated every time I step on the football field."
Timmons and Woodley are expected to turn up the heat in an effort to flush quarterback Kerry Collins from the pocket. It's a strategy designed to force the 38-year-old Collins into errant throws.
Of course, it was a game plan that went awry in a 35-7 setback to the Baltimore Ravens in the regular-season opener two weeks ago. That performance, Woodley said, was simply an aberration instead of a pattern.
"It's hard to duplicate what Baltimore did against us because of the talent we have," Woodley said. "James Harrison and I are identical. It's like you have to pick your poison.
"We were out of our gaps and missing tackles, so we gave up some big plays to Baltimore. We came in the next day and made the corrections. We know teams are going to look at the Baltimore tapes, but that's not going to be the way to beat us."
The Steelers are vulnerable, though, if both Timmons and Woodley play below their expectations as they did against the Ravens.
"I missed some tackles in the first game," said Timmons, who leads the team with 15 tackles. "I had some missed assignments. It wasn't one of my best games, that's for sure."
But linebackers, like quarterbacks, must have short memories. They can't afford to get too high or too low.
In a game in which numbers often matters, Woodley would rather focus on the results.
"Sometimes, it's not about stats - or money," he said. "When you pressure the quarterback and flush him out of the pocket, no one counts that. As long as we come out with a win, that's all I care about."