It's weird, thinking of Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons as the elder statesman of the position.
Timmons, who will turn 28 on Wednesday, will be the oldest player among the inside linebackers meetings, as the roster sits right now. He played last season opposite rookie LB Vince Williams and will possibly (if not probably) start against first round pick Ryan Shazier in 2014.
Out with the old? Hardly. If anything, Timmons is the perfect mentor for Shazier, and there's certainly no reason to remove Timmons from the field. The Steelers have had the 15th overall pick twice in the last eight drafts, taking the likely starting inside linebackers in both of those drafts. Timmons was 20 years old when he was selected, and Shazier is 21 - he'll turn 22 one day before playing in his first NFL game, Week 1 vs. Cleveland.
Timmons has been seen as the young up-and-comer for so long, it's hard to see him in an older veteran kind of way. Yet, there he is, among a revamped Steelers defense that dropped age like the Steelers' front office invented the Flux Capacitor. Out (for now, at least) is 35-year-old Brett Keisel, 34-year-old Ryan Clark and 33-year-old Larry Foote. Shazier moves in alongside fellow draft classmate Stephon Tuitt (who turns 21 on May 23) to fill key roles, as free agent signing Cam Thomas (27 years old) likely holds down the starting defensive end spot opposite Cameron Heyward (who turned 25 two days before the draft). Free agent acquisition Mike Mitchell (turns 27 on June 10) helps add even more athleticism to the Steelers' defense that's struggled to produce takeaways and sacks the last three seasons.
Depending on who starts, or what sub package is on the field, it's possible the Steelers have 10 players under the age of 30 on the vast majority of their defensive snaps in 2014.
That makes Timmons borderline ancient, by comparison. He's logged over 1,000 snaps the last four years, including a whopping 1,135 snaps in 2010 (according to Pro Football Focus). That's huge for any player, regardless of age.
Clearly, the team got younger, but that only matters in a rebuilding sense. Timmons has the best combination of total experience and youth on the defense, and his long-awaited move to the buck linebacker position on a full-time basis could be just what he needs to play at a consistently high level all season.