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State of the Steelers Roster: Linebackers Part 2

This is the final installment of our roster breakdown. Scroll back through the past week or so if you missed a position and would like to read about it. You can also use the search function at the top right of the page. As always, fill in what we left out and where you see things differently.

Overview: Yesterday I started my linebacker evaluation with commentary on James Harrison,  James Farrior, Clark Haggans and Arnold Harrison. Continuing onward...

LaMarr Woodley :

Age and '07 Statistics: 23 years old (11/03/84), 14 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Contract Status: Woodley's rookie contract will pay him a base salary of $370,000 in '08 and escalate slightly in both '09 and '10. His $466,250 prorated signing bonus will bring his salary cap hit near the $1 million mark in '08-'10.

2007 Analysis: After just three weeks, it appeared Woodley was going to be a major contributor for all of '07, recording a sack in both Week 2 and Week 3.  A few nicks and bruises, as well as some solid play by Haggans early in 2007, played a role in keeping Woodley on the bench and largely a non-factor for the middle part of last year though. As was the case for many of our positions, Tomlin and the staff emphasized continuity (perhaps too much so), electing to stick with his starters and not change things up throughout the year. I expect that to change in '08 not just with Woodley, but also along the offensive line, where it's more than likely that we'll need to do some shuffling before we find the right combination.

Can't wait to see him prove it in '08.

2008 Outlook: Clearly Woodley rests at the heart of much of the optimism surrounding our defense in future years. He showed a great burst off the line when given the chance to play. We sorely lacked a young, ferocious, capable pass rusher off the edge last year. Sure Harrison did a good job, but it takes more than one threat to confuse professional offensive lines. If Woodley is able to keep teams from chipping at Harrison with a TE or RB, both of them could wreak havoc on opposing QBs. 15-18 combined sacks between the two of them is not too far of a stretch if they can stay healthy. I can't wait to see this kid perform in '08.

Lawrence Timmons

Age and '07 Statistics: 21 years old (5/14/86), 13 tackels, 0 sacks.

Contract Status: Timmons' base salary may be small, but his rookie deal (that was negotiated during a hold-out in training camp) guarantees him $8.053 million in guarantees through 2011.

2007 Analysis: Timmons may have seemed like a disappointment on the surface, but several things to consider: A) He's just 21 years old!  B) He had never started a game on defense before his junior year in college.

Translation: He's raw, real raw. Despite all that, Timmons played in all 16 games as a rookie, mainly on special teams. I personally saw marked improvement in our coverage game, particularly kickoff coverage mid-way through the year. Timmons was a part of that.

2008 Outlook: Like Woodley, Timmons is being relied upon to do big things in '08. Many of us are even more excited about Woodley than Timmons, but let's not forget the two variables I mentioned earlier. He's young and barely knows how to play LB. This will be year two in our strength and conditioning program, as well as year two learning the ins and outs of playing ILB in the NFL. Timmons needs to provide some much needed athleticism in pass coverage over the middle of the field. If he's constantly forced to be thinking out there about where he's supposed to be, he can't unleash the athleticism that helped make him a top 15 pick in last year's draft. With Farrior alongside him, Timmons should be able to play freely and just run, run, run after the ball and make plays. Farrior will help clean up some of the potential messes he might make. We'll see. We have very little to judge Timmons by at this point, but if he can continue to be a force on special teams and provide some needed speed on defense, I'll be pleased.

Andre Frazier

Age and '07 Statistics: 25 years old (6/29/1982); 10 tackles, 0 sacks. INTs

Contract Status: Frazier is a restricted free agent. It's yet to be determined what the Steelers plans are for him, but don't be surprised to see him back in Pittsburgh in '08.

2007 Analysis: Frazier was on the active roster for 15 weeks in '07, helping little on defense, but some on special teams. If he is re-signed, it'll be for special teams purposes.  

2008 Outlook: If Frazier is re-signed, it'll be for his abilities to ratchet up the competition on special teams. With J. Harrison, Woodley, Timmons, Foote and Farrior all back and ready to lead a top-rated defense, there won't be many opportunities for Frazier outside of this niche.

Larry Foote

Age and '07 Statistics: 27 years old (6/12/80), 81 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 INT

Contract Status: Foote is on the books for roughly $3.4 million in '08 and nearly $4 million in '09.  

2007 Analysis: Another solid, if not spectacular year for Foote. A 16-game starter in '07, Foote had 5 games with at least 7 tackles. Despite his relatively mundane size for an NFL backer, Foote earned his keep once again last year playing alongside James Farrior in the middle of the field.

2008 Outlook: If Foote is to remain a career Steeler, this is essentially a contract year for him. Foote, like Farrior, is a very serviceable `backer who is a sure tackler, but simply not cut from the same cloth as some of the greats Stillers have been spoiled by in year's past. He's a great locker room guy, a charitable community participant, and plenty young to still make an impact on this defense for many more years. However, with all the talent coming out of college in recent years at the LB position, Foote would be best served having a big year in '08 if he wishes to remain a part of the organization's mid-term plans. Timmons won't just jump in and steal all his playing time, so Foote will have plenty of chances to contribute for this defense.

Others in the Mix:

Marquis Cooper, Anthony Trucks:

Fill in what you may know about these two. Trucks spent last year on the practice squad and could make some noise on special teams. Cooper is a restricted free agent, so we'll learn soon enough whether he figures into our plans.