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Old 11-06-2010, 11:15 PM   #1
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Default Healthy Timmons shows his pop

Healthy Timmons shows his pop
By John Harris
Sunday, November 7, 2010

In his first NFL practice, linebacker Lawrence Timmons felt something pop.

Timmons, the Steelers' first-round pick in 2007, No. 15 out of Florida State the first selection of the Mike Tomlin era suffered a groin injury at his rookie minicamp.

In time, pop felt more like bust as in, perhaps the Steelers made a mistake drafting Timmons, who recorded just 13 tackles as a rookie.

"When I first came here and got hurt, people said, 'That guy's probably going to be a bust.' I had never gotten hurt until I got here. The injury set me back a long time," Timmons said. "I was heartbroken."

Timmons was only 20 when he was drafted. He had some growing up to do.

"Coming from Tallahassee to Pittsburgh, it's a whole lot faster here," he said. "Then, you have to deal with the reputation. A couple of years (earlier), they won the Super Bowl. When I got here, Joey Porter had just left. Everybody was saying, 'Let's see if he can replace Joey Porter.' Being compared like that put a lot of pressure on me."

If 2007 was a season for Timmons to forget, 2010 is becoming one to remember. Timmons, who is tied for fourth in the NFL with 74 tackles, has been everything Tomlin promised on draft day.

"He has some Derrick Brooks qualities," Tomlin said April 28, 2007, referencing the former Tampa Bay linebacker another Florida State product who made 10 Pro Bowls. "You don't necessarily want to put that on anyone, because Brooks is a legendary player, but he runs around and strikes people."

Liberated from injuries that slowed his development and finally comfortable in coordinator Dick LeBeau's defense, Timmons is playing free and easy flying to the ball and hitting anyone wearing the wrong-colored jersey.

This season, he has more tackles than two other marquee inside linebackers selected in the 2007 draft, San Francisco's Patrick Willis and Carolina's Jon Beason. Willis, voted to the Pro Bowl each of his first three seasons, was the No. 11 selection. Beason, the No. 25 pick, has made the Pro Bowl twice.

The Steelers' locker room is full of defensive stars, including Troy Polamalu and James Harrison. No one's star has shone brighter than Timmons', whose biggest knock was that he couldn't stay healthy, not that he couldn't play. Timmons likely will end James Farrior's four-year run as the Steelers' leading tackler.

"What you're seeing now from him production-wise is what you can expect to see. He's going to continue to grow," LeBeau said.

Even though director of football operations Kevin Colbert has the final say in draft matters, Tomlin put his reputation on the line on Timmons' selection. In a sense, Tomlin and Timmons were linked when the first-year coach touted the rookie linebacker as his guy.

"I did, even going back to '08 when we were playing him in sub-package football," Tomlin said of when he became convinced Timmons possessed star quality. "If you look at his numbers relative to the number of snaps he played in '08, what he's doing right now shouldn't be that much of a shock to anyone."

Linebackers coach Keith Butler, who recommended that Timmons switch from outside to inside linebacker, said during training camp that the season hinged on Timmons.

"He has to have a big year for us to be successful," Butler said. "And I think he will, because he feels more comfortable."

Said Timmons: "I never thought I could play like this in the middle, but it takes time to learn the Steelers' system. You're not going to start right away like rookies on other teams that's not the tradition here. You're going to sit behind a veteran and soak the system in. You have to look at it like a mutual fund. You're not looking to see a return in the first year or two.''

This year, the Steelers are cashing in. Timmons had 11 tackles, including three for losses, against Atlanta in the opener. He followed that with a career-high 15 tackles at Tennessee. Two weeks later, he had 15 tackles against Baltimore, then 11 and two sacks against Cleveland. Last week at New Orleans, he had 12 tackles, including two for loss.

"We really haven't seen everything he has to give," Farrior said. "The injuries, I think, held him back."

Timmons' relatively slow time in the 40-yard dash nearly held him back from being selected in the first round. After failing to run under 4.6 seconds at the NFL Combine and Florida State's pro day, Timmons' stock plunged in the eyes of some teams but not the Steelers'.

"I didn't really know where I was going in the draft," Timmons said. "The Steelers gave me a lot of attention, like, 'Lawrence, we really like you.' But you get that from all the coaches and general managers. Four or five teams told me they were interested. I never thought in a million years the Steelers would pick me up."

Especially not after his 40 time.

"When I didn't run a 4.4 like I was supposed to, a lot of teams said, 'You don't have the speed we thought you did,'" Timmons said. "Some teams backed off me right there.

"I don't think it's fair for teams to go off a 40 when you've got cameras on you and it's like a Hollywood movie scene. Teams judge you that one time. Your (game) tape should explain it all."

This season, Timmons' standout play needs no explanation.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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Old 11-06-2010, 11:28 PM   #2
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Cool Re: Healthy Timmons shows his pop

Linebackers coach Keith Butler, who recommended that Timmons switch from outside to inside linebacker, said during training camp that the season hinged on Timmons.

"He has to have a big year for us to be successful," Butler said.

This right here sums it up.

Without Timmons thus far in the season, Pittsburgh doesn't go 5-2.
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: Healthy Timmons shows his pop

these new "rules" are making me so skittish, i'm thinking since he's playing so well, he'll probably be the next to be fined (believe me, they'll find a reason or "twist" one of his tackles...)
Watch, it'll happen.
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Old 11-07-2010, 01:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: Healthy Timmons shows his pop

Good to see Lawrence Timmons get kudos for his play this season. Also, IMHO we would have seen the light turn on for Timmons last season if he was 100%. Those ankle injuries really slowed him down last year.
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