End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Lawrence Timmons
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 8 Years
It only took eight seasons, but the league finally recognized Lawrence Timmons as an upper tier player at his position by sending him to his first Pro Bowl in his eighth season in the league. One could argue that he could have easily had another Pro Bowl or two at a minimum on his resume for seasons that were even better than his play in 2014.
Make no mistake, however; Timmons played a vital role in what little true success that the defense as a unit built for itself last year. With him taking over the buck linebacker position, he himself was in transition, all the while getting his teammates up to speed, including the rookie starter alongside him, Ryan Shazier.
Where Timmons really excelled, of course, was in his excellent run defense. He was arguably the Steelers’ best weapon against the run all season, with rare exceptions, as in the opening day game.
The veteran, however, was disappointing in coverage, which was once his most heralded asset, as a linebacker who could be entrusted to regularly cover the running backs and tight ends out of the backfield. These errors, however, were largely of the mental, and not the physical variety, which could be corrected as he continues to adjust to the buck linebacker position.
Timmons did not rush the passer as often as he had in the past, but he did record two sacks. As an impact player, however, he was uncharacteristically a no-show, failing to record a single interception or forced fumble all season, which is the first time that that happened since his rookie season, when his play was limited.
He also went through stretches during which experienced a rash of missed tackles, particularly early on in the season. In fact, he finished the year toward the bottom in terms of tackling efficiency at his position. But this is an anomaly, and I suspect that as the defense settles in around him, he will be able to play less encumbered, which will see his efficiency increase back to normal levels.
Timmons will be 29 by the time the 2015 season starts, and has two years remaining on his contract. He is still playing at a high level, but the Steelers do have some depth at inside linebacker. Could they entrust the buck position to Vince Williams by 2017 and move on from Timmons, as an example? Just a thought experiment, but Law Dawg could very well be one of the rare three-contract players for the Steelers.