The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.
Question: What sort of performance should we be able to expect on the field from Lawrence Timmons in 2016?
Lawrence Timmons is the first player that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has ever been responsible for drafting in the history of his head coaching career, which will soon span 10 drafts. Later first-round draft picks after that 2007 NFL Draft jokingly refer to him as Tomlin’s first-born for that reason, and allude to special treatment in practice, such as awarding him undeserved victories during a get-off drill, as an example.
There is no doubt that the fondness for Timmons is well-deserved, as he has been arguably the team’s most important defensive player since he was drafted—or at least since he entered the starting lineup two years later.
There are those who have been predicting his demise for a while, but he is certainly not there yet, even as the crowd that would have the team release him continues to voice its case on what are surely dear ears in the front office.
Timmons may not be quite the player that he once was, but he is still quite a player, as even a cursory glance at his stat line from last season will reveal. His 119 tackles are the fourth consecutive year he has hit triple figures, and he tied the linebacker lead with five sacks. He forced a fumble, intercepted a pass, and defended six passes. In all, it is a stat line that blends consistency with playmaking.
His season got off to a slow start, but one must remember that Timmons suffered a turf toe injury during training camp that kept him out of nearly all of the preseason, and continued to dog him through the early portions of the season, yet in spite of that, he did not miss any playing time.
It will still be a bit more than a month before Tomlin’s first ever draft selection even hits the age of 30. It is true that he has a lot of tread on his tires for a player not yet 30, given how young he was when he first entered the league, and perhaps he has lost a quarter of a step or so, but he remains a bedrock of an emerging defensive unit that I expect will continue beyond what is currently the final year of his contract.