During the late stages of the 2015 regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers began incrementally adopting the use of their dime, or quarter, defense, a sub-package that employs three cornerbacks and three safeties, removing the nose tackle and an inside linebacker from the field in order to better defend against obvious passing situations.
The Steelers tried to dabble with this early in the season, only to find that they lacked the cohesiveness in coaching and personnel to prevent against communication errors. At this time, the coaching staff took second-year inside linebacker Ryan Shazier off the field in order to bring on safety Robert Golden.
Late in the season, however, when they brought back the six-defensive-back package, it was nine-year veteran Lawrence Timmons who came off the field, a rather rare sight indeed, as he had played nearly every snap of the season up to that point.
Timmons, now 30, entering his 10th season and in the final year of his contract, is facing the prospect of potentially looking for a new home after this season, particularly following earlier reports that the front office was unlikely to reach any extensions with their players beyond David DeCastro prior to the start of the regular season.
If the Steelers saw fit to take him off the field in obvious passing situations—which was once regarded as a strength of his, as attested to by his 10 interceptions and 38 pass deflections in his career—then that puts him one step closer to being expendable, and thus vulnerable.
Though Timmons is often referred to by his teammates as head coach Mike Tomlin’s first-born son—he was the first draft pick that Tomlin had ever made as a head coach—he takes no contract, nor any snap, for granted, and he is not looking forward to coming off the field again in 2016, or playing for another team.
Not only did he tell Chris Adamski yesterday that he dropped about five pounds from his playing weight last season in pursuit of the goal of staying quick, which is exactly the same routine that many inside linebacker before him have begun to take in this era of the NFL as they have aged, he also told Jeremy Fowler that he is “pretty sure things are going to work out for the better”, referring to his future contract situation.
Timmons said as early as last seasons that he was willing to do virtually whatever it takes to finish his career as a Steeler, and I would imagine that Tomlin and the front office feel similarly, but that is only provided that the balance between financial compensation and on-field production remain.
Timmons dropped weight in an effort to improve his game, though nothing should be better than playing healthy, as he was unable to do to start last season. Statistically, he had a very good 2015 season. If he can be more reliable in coverage and cut down on the missed tackles that we saw last year, I foresee him sticking around.