The Pittsburgh Steelers have an extensive history of excellence at the linebacker position. It can be traced back to the dynasty decade of the 1970s led by Jack Lambert and Jack Ham, held by guys like Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene through the 1990s and was continued by the likes of Joey Porter and James Harrison through the start new millennium. Modern-day guys such as Ryan Shazier, T.J. Watt, and Devin Bush are slowly molding themselves as their own respective players among the upcoming generation of football fans.
One player, however, oftentimes gets lost in the shuffle when talking about Steelers linebackers: Lawrence Timmons.
Timmons, drafted in the first-round of the 2007 NFL Draft, was the first draft pick of the Mike Tomlin era. Despite not starting a single game, Timmons played in all sixteen games thanks to special teams and the rare rotational opportunity. The following season Timmons started two regular season games in Pittsburgh's route to a Super Bowl victory.
In 2009, Timmons took over as a full-time starter after the departure of Larry Foote. When the team returned to the Super Bowl in 2010, Timmons had his best statistical season, reeling in 135 tackles (98 solo) with nine passes defended, three sacks and two interceptions. Timmons was awarded a five-year, $47.79 million contract extension before the start of the next season.
After another solid campaign in 2011, Timmons began to elevate his game to new levels. From 2012-2016, Timmons hit over 100 tackles in five consecutive seasons (leading the team his last four years in Pittsburgh) while also earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors in 2014. Former teammate (and former Steeler) Le'Veon Bell had high praise for Timmons, a player he directly practiced against and played with for four seasons:
"He's a great cover linebacker, one of the best in this business," said Bell at the team's 2015 training camp. "He makes me better and vice-versa. He's a great backer, I'm glad to have him go against me in practice because it's just making me better."
Despite being the Steelers' anchor on the defensive side of the football for nearly a decade, Lawrence and the Steelers parted ways after Timmons signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Miami Dolphins prior to the 2017 season. Many thought Timmons would ultimately retire in Pittsburgh, as Timmons even offered to restructure his contract in 2015 just to stay with the team long-term.
When asked about his relationship with Timmons following his departure, coach Tomlin stated he and his first-ever draft selection would remain on good terms:
However, Timmons' tenure in Miami was anything but productive. Timmons went AWOL early in the 2017 season and was nowhere to be found by the Dolphins for days. It was later reported he flew back to Pittsburgh and hung out at Steelers practice a week prior to his mysterious absence, despite playing for a new team. Timmons was reported to have told the team he wished to rejoin them, as he regretted leaving Pittsburgh in free agency.
Miami ultimately suspended Timmons and reinstated him a week later. Timmons was released the following offseason. Rumors swirled of a potential reunion with the Steelers, but the Steelers opted for other options instead. Timmons has yet to officially retire, but a two-year absence from the league in your 30's likely spells the end of a career. There's hope that Timmons may eventually sign a one-day deal to retire a member of the organization, but only time will tell if that will happen.
Assuming his career is over, Timmons finished a ten-year career in Pittsburgh missing just two games during that span, with 1,067 tackles/35.5 sacks/32 total turnovers to his resume in Pittsburgh.
With a recent revival in the team's defense, it's easy to bypass players such as Timmons for other options when thinking about great linebackers in recent franchise history. He wasn't outspoken nor loud off the field, so a player such as Timmons may not come across the forefront of fan's minds right away.
Yet Timmons was one of the most consistent players to have put on the black and gold, and his numbers truly speak for themselves. Timmons was well-received by fellow players, coaches and fans in Pittsburgh during his time with the Steelers, and still is to this day. He was a rangy linebacker who excelled in run support and pass coverage, anchoring a Steelers defense that wasn't exactly the cream of the crop for some time.
Timmons should (and is) remembered by many in a positive light. A productive Pro Bowl player who helped the team capture a Super Bowl championship while narrowly securing a second one. He was a player that showed up every Sunday and dominated during the majority of his career.
Most importantly, however, he held a true love for Steelers fans and the city of Pittsburgh, which is more than you can say for other players who have stepped foot on Heinz Field.