Perhaps nobody was in more dire need of a rebound game for the Pittsburgh Steelers than inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, whose missed tackles through the first two games contributed to a slow start for the defense.
But he did have a much better performance last week against the Carolina Panthers, both in pass protection and in the running game, showing solid tackling throughout and preventing yards after contact opportunities.
Midway through the first quarter on the Panthers’ opening drive, for example, Timmons was able to get to Mike Tolbert over the left side of the defense after Ryan Shazier chased the fullback out of the hole. The back only gained two yards on the play.
On the second drive for the Panthers, facing a second and 11, Cam Newton looked off his tight end to the right before throwing to Jonathan Stewart, who was cutting to the left sideline. Timmons was in good trail position, however, and brought the back down more or less where he caught the ball, near the line of scrimmage.
Early in the second half, Stewart got the ball on a stretch run to the left, but the defense held position tightly. With Troy Polamalu sealing the edge, Stewart was forced to cut inside, and Timmons read and anticipated the cut, meeting him in the hole for no gain. Cameron Heyward drew a holding call on the play, however.
Of course, Timmons was also partly responsible for two of the defense’s unfortunate injuries during the game as well. He was first pushed back into Shazier’s knee, which resulted in a sprained MCL.
Later in the game, he tried to help Ike Taylor bring down Kelvin Benjamin, but as he did so, Benjamin lunged forward, exposing the cornerback’s arm, which Timmons hit straight on and broke.
As the Panthers began to drive midway through the third quarter, Newton started to find the sidelines with greater frequency. He looked to his tight end on the play above, but Timmons, along with William Gay, was there to break up the pass.
Late in the third quarter, Timmons continued to show better awareness, and tackling, in coverage against the Panthers as he quickly locked in on the slot receiver cutting through the middle of the field and tackled him on the spot after a gain of three yards on first and 10.
Sans his involvement in the Steelers’ myriad injuries last Sunday night, Timmons had a strong bounce-back performance against the Panthers, showing the type of play that this transitioning defense needs from its new signal caller. Quite honestly, this isn’t the first time he’s started a season off slow, but hopefully, he’s gotten things going for good now.