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Old 08-08-2009, 01:24 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' Timmons poised to excel in role

Steelers' Timmons poised to excel in role
By John Grupp
Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Steelers are replacing a Foote with a freak.

Lawrence Timmons, the former first-round draft pick, is embracing a new role as a starting inside linebacker for the NFL's top-ranked defense.

Timmons, in his third year, is taking over for departed veteran Larry Foote.

"It's just playing football, that's all," Timmons said after practice this week. "I want to get better and work on all facets of my game and try to learn as much as possible."

The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Timmons played in all 16 games last season, starting two, and he filled the stats sheet.

The former Florida State star was one of only two players LaMarr Woodley was the other to record at least one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Now, Timmons, 23, has added 10 pounds of muscle, while keeping if not enhancing his eye-blink quickness.

"It's going well," Timmons said. "Everything is going well."

Foote had started five seasons at inside linebacker before the Steelers released him. Foote, due to be paid about $2.9 million this season, returned to his hometown Detroit and signed with the Lions. Along the way, he groomed Timmons.

"(Foote) helped me out," Timmons said. "I love and respect that guy."

Timmons will become an every-down player after seeing action mainly in passing situations last season. Whereas Foote was a force against the run, the explosive Timmons excelled on the pass rush and in coverage.

Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler is confident Timmons will be an effective run-stuffer, as he joins what is arguably the NFL's best group of linebackers.

"(Foote) was a great player, and everybody's comparing them, but they're two different guys," Butler said. "(Timmons) was playing in the nickel sub-package when people were passing. When people ran, he did what he was supposed to do."

Timmons was such a hard-hitter at Florida State he was awarded the "Hit stick" for notable physical play typically reserved for big games after a spring practice.

Timmons, whose 6-8 father, Lindsey, played basketball at Duquesne in the mid-1970s, was an all-state tight end at Wilson High School in Florence, S.C. He is quick enough to cover any tight end in the league and a lot of running backs.

Pro Bowl inside linebacker James Farrior all but laughed when someone questioned Timmons' run-stopping ability.

"He's probably one of the hardest hitters we've got," Farrior said. "As long as he knows where he's going and what gap he has, he's going to be a force. He's one of the best athletes we have on the team, so I'm sure stopping the run won't be a problem for him."

Timmons has never started an NFL game at inside linebacker. He filled in for Woodley in Week 10 against the Colts and for James Harrison in Week 17 against the Browns, both at outside linebacker.

Despite coming off the bench, Timmons made his share of big plays, helping the Steelers sweep the Baltimore Ravens.

His overtime takedown of Joe Flacco his first career sack set up the game-winning field goal in the Steelers' 23-20 victory Sept. 29. In the rematch in Baltimore, Timmons' third-down sack of Flacco with less than five minutes to play led to the game-winning touchdown in a 13-9 win.

Timmons, the first player drafted by Mike Tomlin (No. 15 overall in 2007), knows what it's like to move into the starting lineup as a third-year player. He came off the bench his first two seasons at Florida State, before replacing first-round pick Ernie Sims at strong-side linebacker.

Timmons was brought along slowly because the Steelers' defense is so complex.

"We felt the best thing for him to do was specialize in the sub-package, and he could learn the position as he got older," Butler said. "He's starting to do that."

The Timmons file

Position: Inside linebacker

Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-1/245

Tackles: 57

Sacks: 5

Passes deflected: 3

Forced fumbles: 1

Fumble recoveries: 1

John Grupp can be reached at jgrupp@tribweb.com or 412-320-7930.
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