One of the constants of the Steelers' starting lineup has been Lawrence Timmons. He'll play with a broken left hand Sunday when the Steelers take on the Raiders in Oakland. It certainly takes more than that to keep Timmons out of the lineup.
The only issue Timmons has had over the last few seasons is some games he seems dialed in, and others, it's a very static-filled connection.
One of those choppy, incomplete games was against Oakland last season, when the Steelers lost 34-31. He was slow to react to a run away from him by Darren McFadden, who took it 64 yards for the longest run against the Steelers last season.
The following game, after their bye, Timmons shredded the Philadelphia Eagles nearly single-handedly, giving the Steelers a much-needed win.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau doesn't necessarily see the inconsistency, or at least not to a level he feels is worth mentioning publicly. ESPN's Scott Brown asked LeBeau about Timmons, and his praise had a high ceiling.
"He's all over the field," LeBeau told Brown. "He's always one of our leading tacklers. He's been a good interceptor and made a lot of good runs after he got the ball. I don't know what more you want the guy to do? To me he has played at an All-Pro level for several years."
It's not a stretch to suggest Timmons has played around that kind of level. He's leading the team in tackles so far this season, having to fill in largely for injured veteran Larry Foote. Along with the void left by Foote and the significant increase in tackle opportunities and responsibilities for Timmons, he's had to help rookie Vince Williams with defensive play calling.
The Steelers used strong safety Troy Polamalu as an inside linebacker alongside Timmons in their 19-16 win over Baltimore, and that required Timmons to attack the line of scrimmage all game. It resulted in a career-high 17 tackles, a week after he intercepted Jets quarterback Geno Smith deep in Steelers' territory.
Timmons gets an opportunity to avenge a sloppy performance at Oakland last year, and the Steelers will need it if they wish to continue their current defensive hot streak. They've allowed 22 points in their last two games, both wins, and have allowed an average of 277 total yards in each of those games.
As a defense, they're allowing just 82.5 yards a game over their last two contests, well-below their season average of 109.3.
Broken hand or not, the Steelers need Timmons on the field, and one of those dialed-in performances would be useful.
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