With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: Lawrence Timmons, LILB
It’s kind of funny to think back on how poorly the 2014 season began for Lawrence Timmons, whose missed tackles during the first couple of games were key to the defense’s struggles at a time in which the unit likely needed him to be dependable more than ever.
Timmons, of course, is one of the few mainstays on this defense over the last several years, which has changed personnel significantly over the course of the past few seasons. He is the only linebacker who started both the 2012 season opener as well as the 2014 opener, for example.
Not that he didn’t have his own set of changes to deal with on his own. Other than being forced to log time with about five different inside linebackers lined up next to him over the course of the past two seasons, he’s also been asked to slide over from the mack to the buck linebacker spot, and perhaps he struggles with positioning in that regard early on.
With that said, Timmons has been among the best linebackers in the league in terms of playing against the run, consistently making an impact in that area in nearly every game the Steelers have played this season.
His 94 tackles through 11 games puts him just ahead of the pace to surpass his career-best 135 tackles in 2010. He could surpass the 100-tackle mark for the fourth time in five seasons in the next game if he logs six or more, which he has done in all but two games this year.
He’s also recorded two sacks thus far, though he would certainly like to get that number up. His career-best game in 2009 in his first year as a starter when he recorded seven tackles. He has also yet to record a turnover, which is surprising, given that he is usually good for about four.
Where he’s struggled the most this season has been in pass coverage. While some of that might fairly be credited to the changes going on around him, he has been beaten deep in isolation or on crossers over the middle in his zone often enough to suggest a trend.