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Two linebackers diverged in a snowy wood, Timmons is taking the path less heralded

Both Lawrence Timmons (first round, 2007) and LaMarr Woodley (second round, 2007) got big contract extensions. One went one way, the other went the other.

Kevin C. Cox

Tribune Review reporter Mark Kaboly penned an insightful feature on Steelers linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, demonstrating a lesson on how it's not the start, but the finish, that matters.

Woodley won the first half of their careers by a healthy margin. The pair were selected in the 2007 NFL Draft, Timmonsi n the first round and Woodley in the second. Woodley became a starter in his second season, recording at least 1.5 sacks in his first three playoff games as the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII.

Timmons didn't see the field much back then, not even having locked into one specific position in either of his first two seasons.

Both were given big contract extensions immediately following the lockout in 2011, appearing the pair were off to become the key players of the defensive core of the next few years. It seemed like a no-brainer; both were unquestioned starters, young and, minus a few setbacks early on for Timmons, relatively healthy. Both were on the verge of breaking into the upper echelon of their respective positions.

As Kaboly pointed out, Woodley wouldn't wait to wake up the next day and break the news of his contract extension via social media. Timmons alleges he was told not to tell anyone, citing a requirement to "keep it on the down low."

Timmons has held true to that request. And Woodley has continued his social media blitz. But clearly, Timmons has surpassed Woodley in terms of production, most notably in the most basic of production stats; snaps played.

Timmons has played an astounding 1,688 consecutive snaps - or 99 percent of the Steelers defensive plays over the last two years. Woodley has played in 56 percent of them. Timmons is the link between the Steelers' past defensive dominance and its future. Woodley is quite possibly a cap casualty this offseason - he can be cut post-June 1 to save approximately $7 million on this year's salary cap.

To Woodley's credit, when he's been healthy, he's been productive. Or, at least he was for the first half of the 2013 season when he notched five quarterback sacks in the team's first six games. But he missed five of the team's final seven games, eventually landing on injured reserve as his back-up Jason Worilds thrust himself into prominence, leading to speculation Woodley could be released, just three years into a six-year, $61 million deal.

Woodley was considered a project - a college defensive end who needed to transition to the outside linebacker position. Timmons wasn't even that; he only started one full year at Florida State and was 20 years old when the Steelers made him the 15th overall pick of the 2007 Draft. But if nothing else, the pair are excellent examples of the value of health on a team as well as the notion a player sometimes just needs some time to develop.