Entering his 8th season, and at 28 years old, Lawrence Timmons has seen and done a lot in his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He's been the young up and comer, only 20 years old when he was drafted. He's played with the some of the best defensive players in the league in Troy Polomalu, James Farrior and James Harrison. He was an active member of a historically great defense in 2008. He has put together a string of impressive individual years in his own right, and hell, he's even been to two Super Bowls.
Now Timmons is facing an entirely different challenge. WIth the departure of LaMarr Woodley, Timmons is now the only veteran presence in a linebacker corps that is scarily inexperienced. As an illustration, Lawrence Timmons has 435 career tackles over the last 7 seasons. The other 13 linebackers currently on the roster have a combined career total of 254.
The Steelers have made a concerted effort to infuse youth and talent into their linebacking corps, spending 5 draft picks in the last 3 years on linebackers, two of which were in the 1st round.
What Jarvis Jones, Vince Williams and Ryan Shazier need, and yes Arthur Moats and Jason Worilds too, is a mentor and a leader. Someone to act as an example in practice, through effort and commitment, and someone to lead them on and off the field, much like James Farrior did when Timmons was a rookie.
Per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Timmons is stepping up and embracing his role as a mentor.
He makes sure he's first in line for every drill, so he can show the young linebacker's how it's supposed to be done.
"Yeah, I'm the older guy now," said Timmons. "I'm the type of guy that likes to lead by example. I like to let my work ethic speak for itself, just things of that nature like the way I go about practice, and show these guys how to do it."
It's not just about being loud and vocal on the practice field though, Timmons recognises that being a leader and a mentor is about more than on-the-field issues. That's why he encourages the younger players to come to him for guidance.
[On coming to him for advice] "yeah, a lot of guys, especially the young guys, I try to do anything I can for them -- on the field, off the field, anything."
Of course Timmons still retains his personal ambitions.
"I just want to be great," he said. "I want to stand out, be a great leader for this defense, and I'm just trying to leave it all out on the field."
At this point in his career, Timmons is well suited to mentoring the Steelers youthful linebacking corps. He did his time, so to speak, when he was a rookie sitting behind the starters and learning the defense. He also spent 5 years with a great defensive captain in Farrior, which will have shown him how a great leader behaves, both on and off the field. And finally his great work ethic and established track record on the field will legitimise him with the Steelers rookies, giving him a sense of authority.
The Steelers linebacking corps, and its defense, are at a critical jucture just now. The team needs Lawrence Timmons to continue to teach and guide the young linebackers like Shazier and Jones.