Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons has been having a rough start to this season after missing most of training camp and the preseason while nursing a turf toe injury. The first three games in particular were somewhat concerning.
But he did show some improvement last week against the Ravens, and while there were still some plays that make you wonder how he failed to make them, Timmons clearly had a bigger impact on the defensive performance than he had in prior weeks.
He registered a season-high 11 tackles and a sack during the game, many of them impact plays that came on third or fourth down, and many of them forceful. At times, he even showed the range that made him, for a brief period of time, among the best coverage inside linebackers in the league, as evidenced by the ground that he covered to make the play on a seven-yard reception right before the Ravens’ first touchdown.
It was midway through Baltimore’s first drive of the second quarter when he notched his first sack of the season, breaking off his coverage after finding Joe Flacco scrambling. He broke quickly on the quarterback to meet him at the line of scrimmage, stopping him for no gain.
The Ravens were forced into a three-and-out on their next possession after Timmons made an excellent play in coverage on third and five, following wide receiver Marlon Brown over the middle and smothering him upon the reception to hold him to a gain of one.
Later, in the third quarter after a punt return set Flacco and the Ravens offense up at the Steelers’ 28-yard line, Timmons came up with the drive-stopping tackle on third and 10, cutting the tight end as he tried to leap over the linebacker to hold him short of the first down as Baltimore settled for a field goal.
He came up with another big third-down stop at the end of the quarter, putting a big hit on Steve Smith to hold him short of the first-down marker after just a one-yard gain. The receiver was injured on the play and did not return. The Ravens, however, did convert on fourth down and ultimately scored a field goal on the drive about 10 plays later.
That field goal was aided a fair bit by the fact that Timmons missed one of his two tackles on the night on third and 23. With the ball on the 33-yard line, the veteran had an opportunity to make the tackle at the 30, but could not wrap up as the back picked up eight more yards.
That was one of two field goal drives for the Ravens in the fourth quarter that sent the game into overtime. The second drive began with Mike Mitchell and Timmons colliding with one another as the former looped around on a blitz and the latter dropped into coverage. Timmons fell down, and by the time he recovered, Flacco had found his target in the now open zone on the right side for 17 yards, much of which was picked up after the receiver caught him flat-footed.
The Ravens game showed improvement from the 29-year-old as he perhaps gets healthier with that toe injury, able to make some impact plays, but we have certainly seen him play better. Hopefully he continues to work himself back into top form and earns a second trip to the Pro Bowl by the end of the year.