PITTSBURGH – To the surprise of the reporters milling around Lawrence Timmons after practice the other day, his move inside to the Mack linebacker position was made early last season.
Therefore, the position – behind Larry Foote – is not new to Timmons. But this is: “He’s finally gaining an understanding of what he needs to be doing,” said defensive captain James Farrior.
Farrior knows how important it is to gain an understanding of the Steelers’ defense. He spent his first season – in 2002 – as the Buck (strong-side inside) linebacker and admitted he didn’t know what he was doing. He sees the light turning on for Timmons now.
“He’s starting to realize what the other players on defense are doing,” Farrior said. “That’s the biggest key. When you’re playing our defense, you want to know what everybody else is doing. He’s starting to get a grasp of that.”
At Thursday’s practice, Timmons dropped into the flat to cover the running back, who was the checkdown receiver on the play. Quarterback Jared Zabransky looked deep, saw the primary receiver covered, and threw to the back. The pass never got there. Timmons intercepted it for a touchdown.
“I was just doing my job, that’s all,” Timmons said.
He couldn’t even do that last year at this time. Timmons, the first-round pick, stood on the sideline all spring with a groin injury. The Steelers wanted to do so much with him, too. They wanted him to learn some outside linebacker, some inside, some dime, some special teams. He learned little and saw only limited playing time throughout the season. But now he’s back at spring drills and he's healthy and he's feeling like a vet.
“Like a vet? Not quite,” he said. “Three more weeks and then I won’t be a rookie anymore.”
Go ahead and tell Timmons that he didn’t really miss much last spring. He’s still counting the days to make up for it.
“He is making up for it,” Farrior said. “He’s playing well.”
Timmons, though, remains the second-team Mack backer behind Foote. But Timmons is the first-team dime backer, and that’s his main focus right now. The Steelers are now using two inside backers – Timmons and Farrior – in their dime.
“It looks like the old nickel, but there’s a difference,” Timmons said.
Timmons was asked if he’ll soon have to learn the Buck position.
“The Mack and the Buck pretty much run off each other, so it wouldn’t be difficult,” he said. “But I’ve got to learn the dime a whole lot more before they do anything else with me.”
Thursday's interception proved he’s doing just that.