Player: Lawrence Timmons
School: Florida State
Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is at a crossroads in his career. He seems to have lost a step, especially in pass coverage, and what was once a strength seemed to take a step back in 2015 leading to more three safety packages on 3rd down. This may signal that he’s a two down player going forward. While the prevailing wisdom seems to attribute most of this decline on his age it should also be noted that the ongoing shift in the Steelers defense philosophy led to Timmons facing some tough matchups and difficult assignments. Keith Butler and the Steelers coaching staff obviously wanted to protect and develop the younger members of the linebacking core, so it makes sense that the veteran presence would draw the bulk of the more difficult assignments.
In no game was this more clear than during the tough outing against the Oakland Raiders. As a leader on the defense Timmons will always shoulder much blame, right or wrong, during a game where they give up over 30 points. Twice against Oakland he was beat by a streaking wide receiver for a long gain. While, certainly, Timmons would rather disrupt plays like this it’s just not realistic at this point for him to succeed against a speedy receivers like Seth Roberts and Michael Crabtree especially when he’s responsible for the entire middle of the field.
What’s interesting about both of those plays schematically is the Steelers were showing a hybrid cover 6 defense initially disguised as vanilla two high safety look. Timmons ends up getting put on an island because the interplay between him and the safeties is still a little clunky. In theory, a cover six is designed to prevent big plays like this, so it will be fascinating in 2016 to see if the Steelers can get some of these issues ironed out within the system. If so, Timmons should be able to return closer to his 2014 form. After all, the Steelers have had a tradition recently of veteran linebackers contributing well into their 30’s, and there is no reason that Timmons can’t continue that trend.
Durability, does not miss starts.
Explodes to the play, and tackles ball carriers well.
Rarely makes a mistake reading run plays, and handles gap assignments well.
Lacks quickness to handle deep assignments in coverage
In 2015 was guilty of over pursuing at times missing tackles and struggling against cutbacks
Chances of making team: 100%