Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons had a disappointing showing on opening night, allowing a touchdown in coverage and missing two tackles, the second nearly leading directly to another touchdown. He struggled to get off blocks consistently, and played a game largely lacking aggression.
But he is still the only inside linebacker on the team that I trust right now to get to his drop point in coverage. He does deserve credit for his work away from the ball in the passing game, as he took away a number of outlets for Tom Brady throughout the night.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of his game was lacking, perhaps showing rust after taking off most of the preseason and training camp with a turf toe injury, which is probably still bothering him, explaining his repeated lack of aggression and difficulty getting off blocks.
Midway through the second quarter came Timmons’ first missed tackle, dropped into a shallow zone. With Brady delivering a short dump off pass to the running back over the middle, the linebacker was unable to close, and the back slipped by for a first down.
Early in the second half, on the same play that Ryan Shazier was just narrowly clipped out of making a run stop by the pulling right guard, Timmons was held up at the second level by the left guard peeling out to turn the linebacker enough to prevent him from getting to Dion Lewis.
He finished off that drive in coverage over Scott Chandler after the offense flexed the Steelers out wide at the goal line. The Patriots’ two tight ends ran a slant/flat combination, with Chandler running the flat route, which Timmons had no chance to get to in time.
As previously mentioned, however, the veteran was at least regularly in the proper position in the passing game. midway through the third quarter, for example, he dropped into a zone at the first-down market on second and 15. That gave him the opportunity to come up to make the tackle short of the sticks to set up a third down, which the defense stopped.
Early on the Patriots, first drive of the final quarter, was slow getting to the hole against the run, instead waiting for the center to come to him, who easily drove him out of the hole on a five-yard run. It is not often that he gets physically controlled this way.
On the following play, Timmons came up short on a tackle attempt after a reception by Lewis. He tried to make the tackle short of the first down, but instead, the running back nearly scored.
He did end the Patriots’ next drive with his only successful pass rush of the night, of which there were several. On this occasion, he actually got push in the pocket, and got his hand up in to the throwing lane, batting the ball down and forcing the Patriots to punt.
It is worth keeping in mind that Timmons had been out of game action for several weeks prior to this game, and is likely still feeling the effects of that toe injury. He is also no stronger to a slow start to the season. He will turn things around to be one of the team’s better defenders, I’m sure.