Lawrence Timmons a full-time buck linebacker for Steelers defense

Karl Walter

It's a long-time coming for Timmons, who's assumed most of everything else previously vacated by James Farrior and Larry Foote.

The Steelers' vision for inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons has changed a few times over the years. Chalk that up to drafting a 20-year-old who was oozing with potential.

He gave outside linebacker a shot, along with learning the inside of both linebacker positions, his rookie season. Long-term, it appeared his highest and best use would be on the inside, the heir apparent to James Farrior's borderline trademarked buck position.

The buck linebacker in this defense is more of the gap-plugger. The buck was used more to counter the fullback, back in the day offenses used such a position. While it's still there, oftentimes masked as a move tight end or H-back today, the buck linebacker's role has shifted into a bit of a combination of buck's more free-roaming friend, the mack linebacker.

Timmons has spent the majority of his career as a mack, letting his speed and athleticism define him as a player. After something of a transition away from the build of a more traditional buck playing next to him (i.e. Larry Foote and last year, Vince Williams), Timmons will hold down the buck's duties, according to Post Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette.

Ryan Shazier, who returned to practice after missing much of last week's practices and Saturday's game with a knee injury, will be the starting mack inside linebacker.

Think of Shazier as Timmons 2.0. Few middle or inside linebackers have come into the NFL with the kind of athleticism Shazier has, and even if Timmons doesn't appear to have lost a step, the more natural fit with the mack position is Shazier. With Williams still displaying more of the traits of a buck, and Sean Spence behind them looking like something of a hybrid of either one, the Steelers find themselves suddenly with spoils of depth, a year after an injury derailed their plans for the season.

Williams admitted much of his training camp was spent reacting based on fear. His play in most of 2013 - a year when he was thrown in the fire after Foote's season-ending injury - wasn't adequate. The experience has helped him tremendously so far in camp, and it appears as if the Steelers' inside linebackers can be worked around on some kind of rotation basis.

Dont' expect that to be Timmons, though. By far the most experienced front seven player the Steelers have, Timmons handling the linebacker position responsible for adjustments at the line will be critical.

There's some work to do already. A missed communication opportunity of some type resulted in a 73-yard touchdown run by the Giants Saturday, whether it was between the defensive line, linebackers or safeties, descriptions of the Giants having carved a huge hole in the middle of the Steelers' defense is misleading; the Steelers had no defenders there to carve. Multiple players were not where they were supposed to be.

It marred an otherwise impressive performance.

Buffalo comes to town for two days of practices, followed by a preseason game Saturday. A team heavy on running personnel, it'll be great work if they wish to make these adjustments. Timmons will have to be at the forefront of that.

He's been preparing for it for eight seasons now.

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