The Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced an uncommon amount of roster turnover over the last few seasons, which just so happened to coincide with consecutive years without a postseason berth.
As a result, we’re finding an unusual amount of new faces in the starting lineup compared just to last season, when the season before already introduced several new starters.
The rapid turnover in successive seasons certainly has much to do with the organization’s personnel management over the previous years. Time, as always, came out the victor as they felt the ramifications of trying to hold together a championship roster that could no longer perform like one.
Considering how different the projected starting lineup for the start of the 2014 season is from just two seasons ago, I think it would be interesting to revisit the roster from the 2010 season—the last time the Steelers competed for a championship—to see how different this new team truly is.
Of the Steelers’ defensive front seven, not a single starter remains from the 2008 season, when the team last won a championship. Even from the 2010 season, the only starter from that group still with the team is inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
And he’s expected to move from the mack to the buck position this year.
But the ‘Law Dawg’ is still patrolling the middle of the defense, and that’s one dash of consistency for which the Steelers are grateful.
Though he didn’t have his best season last year for a variety of reasons—many of which had nothing to do with his own play—Timmons remains one of the focal points of this defense, and is the leader of a young but promising linebacking unit for the modern NFL.
The eighth-year veteran can be said to have a fairly complete game when it comes to the position. He is more than capable of being a run stuffer, though it remains to be seen how well he adjusts to the more physically demanding strong-side insider linebacker position. That is the foremost responsibility of the interior defenders.
But he’s also more than capable of rushing the passer—better than most at his position. He’s averaged better than four sacks per season since his first significant playing time in 2008.
As a playmaker? Beyond the 26 career sacks, he’s also forced 11 fumbles and intercepted nine passes, including one and two, respectively, in 2013. He caused five turnovers in 2012 as well, returning one interception for his first career touchdown.
His coverage skills, when he is at the top of his game, are also above average for his position with his ability to cover speedy running backs and big tight ends without batting an eye.
To put it in perspective, Timmons registered 126 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, five pass deflections, and one forced fumble last year, and that was a down year. The raw statistics don’t fully explain why that is the case, of course.
But it goes to show just how valuable that he is to this defense that even when he can put up those numbers, the Steelers know that he has more to offer. Perhaps with a more permanent cast and less moving parts surrounding him, he can be in better position to deliver more.