When the Pittsburgh Steelers made Lawrence Timmons the team’s newest inside linebacker with the 15th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, at 20 years old, he was destined to become a dynamic, playmaking mack. As he’s gotten older, entering his age-29 season, however, he seems to have found a new home, and a new sense of comfort, in shifting over to the buck.
The Steelers moved Timmons over to the buck linebacker spot on a full-time basis in 2014 after they added the rangy Ryan Shazier in the first round of that draft and plugged him into the mack spot right away.
Because Shazier was in and out of the lineup due to injuries, however, and because the team used a rotation of linebackers to replace him, one of which was a buck and the other a mack, Timmons was unable to find consistency even in his spot on the field, sometimes in the same series.
He is looking for that to change in 2015 with Shazier fully back healthy and ready to assume the mantle that he dropped his rookie year thanks to a series of unfortunate events. He was limited to five starts in just nine games, registering just 36 tackles, but the expectation is that he will be primed for a breakout year.
And Timmons has no problem with that, nor with the implication that he will be staying put full-time at the buck if everything works out according to the plan. He told Ed Bouchette yesterday of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as much.
Expressing the belief that Shazier is “good to go now”, Timmons told Bouchette, “I like it because I’m more of a crasher. I’m in the box taking on guards more, I get more tackles. It’s a good thing”.
While the two positions often blend, the buck linebacker is typically the signal caller on the defense, who plays on the strong side of the defense, where the offense commits the most blockers, and is often responsible for stacking and shedding blockers en route to making a tackle going forward.
The mack linebacker typically has more free range and a wider variety of assignments, more often taking coverage responsibilities or shadowing a running back or quarterback in the backfield. He is often kept free of blockers by the front line and buck, and is typically smaller and more athletic.
That is precisely what Shazier is, who entered the league posting one of the fastest times by a linebacker in the history of the Combine. Timmons thinks the defense needs to put that speed to work as he himself gets older, telling Bouchette, “let the guy roam, that’s what I say”.
Though Timmons himself entered the league much like Shazier, as a physical specimen who seemed geared toward the mack role that he inherited by his third season, he has transformed somewhat over the years, perhaps losing a quarter of a step back putting on the bulk necessary to stack and shed.
His hard work in making the transition from mack to buck was certainly a challenge, with detours being thrown in his path, but it proved to be a fruitful endeavor, as he was honored with the first Pro Bowl nomination of his career. I suspect that that is where he would like to remain until he retires, perhaps adding to his accolades along the way.