Saturday, August 25, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Coach Mike Tomlin cautioned several weeks ago not to give up on Lawrence Timmons, and he wasn't just feigning optimism or sympathy for the Steelers' No. 1 draft pick.
Despite missing the entire offseason conditioning program and more than the first two weeks of training camp, Timmons is doing a good job of playing catch-up at outside linebacker in the Steelers' defense -- so much so his coaches have not ruled out the possibility of him playing every bit as much this season as the team's other rookie outside linebacker, LaMarr Woodley.
"We're seeing him catch up, but that's pretty much what we expected," Tomlin said. "He's a sharp guy, a very talented guy. All he needed to do is get back on the field."
In his first preseason game against the Washington Redskins, Timmons did not have to wait long to get on the field, being inserted in the nickel defense on the first defensive series and rushing the passer.
In the fourth quarter, when the Redskins were trying to rally for a late score, Timmons was dropping into coverage downfield and running with tight ends, running backs and, yes, wide receivers.
"I'm getting there," said Timmons, the 15th overall selection in the NFL draft. "I'm glad they give me an opportunity like that. I'm trying to help them out and live up to the aspirations they have for me in this defense."
He will get more playing time tomorrow night when the Steelers (2-1) face the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) in a preseason game at Heinz Field, but his role will be slightly different. Timmons will continue to get some snaps in the nickel defense, but Tomlin said he will get a more extensive look in the base defense with the second unit.
"Last week, we played him in packages where we wanted him to get out there and play and not worry too much about situational things, assignment things," Tomlin said. "We cut some of those things down so he could turn it loose and play. This week, we're going to take the training wheels off him, and he's going to play in all phases of the defense with the second group."
Timmons' chances of being a contributor this season appeared to diminish when, three days into training camp, he aggravated the same groin injury that caused him to miss nearly the entire offseason program.
After missing the next two weeks of camp, Timmons went to Dr. William Meyers, a noted groin and abdominal specialist based in Philadelphia, and was diagnosed with an inflammatory condition known as osteitis pubis -- the same diagnosis he received from the Steelers. Timmons received an anti-inflammatory injection designed to expedite his return to the practice field.
Less than a week later, he was back on the practice field and back in the Steelers' plans for the regular season. So far, they have not been disappointed by what they've seen.
"He's got the explosiveness we saw in college," said linebackers coach Keith Butler. "Once he figures everything out, he'll be quicker in his play. Right now, he's slowed down because he's thinking a lot. Once he gets the feel of the defense, he'll be all right."
"He's definitely got the tools," said inside linebacker James Farrior. "The coaches wouldn't have picked him that high if he didn't. You definitely see the burst here and there, and he's supposed to be good off the edge. They'll find some way to put him on the field."
While Woodley, a converted defensive end, is used primarily as a pass-rush specialist in the nickel and dime defense, Timmons will be used in more varied roles in the sub packages because he is more accustomed to playing the outside position.
Butler said Timmons can blitz, cover running backs and tight ends, and, on occasion, run with wide receivers.
"I'm trying to be used as many places as possible," Timmons said. "I'm trying to concentrate on third-down packages and, hopefully do more in the base stuff.
"I'm definitely making progress, without a doubt. When I was out [with injury], I was still paying attention and being in meetings like everybody else. I think I'll be fine."
"When I was out [with injury], I was still paying attention and being in meetings like everybody else. I think I'll be fine."