The Pittsburgh Steelers secured a key win yesterday that sets them up with the opportunity to lock up the AFC North and puts them on the path toward securing the number three seed in the playoffs. And even though the defense helped dig the Steelers into a 20-6 hole in the first half, it was through strong individual efforts such as that of 10th-year inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons that helped dig them out.
For as much criticism as Timmons might have received in the early stages of the season, he has been one of the Steelers’ best and most consistent defenders down the stretch, and his second interception over the course of the past few games was again a big play for a team looking for a spark.
The interception came at the end of the third quarter, with the Bengals looking to drive. They had just converted on third and one as they slowly worked their way toward midfield when Timmons was able to step in front of an Andy Dalton pass at midfield, returning it 16 yards to the 34-yard line.
While the takeaway did not lead to a touchdown, it did ultimately lead to three points, to bring the Steelers to within two, and energized a defensive unit that responded by forcing a three-and-out on the following drive—which then managed to put up the go-ahead score and, after another strong defensive series, seal the game.
Of course, he didn’t just have the interception on the day. He also led the Steelers with five solo tackles, and his eight total tackles was second behind only James Harrison, who recorded nine tackles, but, unfortunately, some of his best work in that department ended up going wasted on a goal-line stand from the one-yard line that ended with a quarterback sneak for a score on fourth down.
Late in the first quarter, after a defensive pass interference set the Bengals up with first and goal from the one, Timmons recorded two tackles in a span of three plays on Jeremy Hill at the goal line. He met the runner in the hole on first down, and then in the air on third down on a play that was challenged and upheld.
Late in the first half, Timmons recorded another run stop on second and goal from the three-yard line as an assist. Following an incomplete pass on third down, the Bengals had to settle for a field goal in what ultimately proved to be the difference in the Steelers’ margin of victory.
With Cameron Heyward down, Timmons, Harrison, and William Gay are all that there is from the ‘old guard’ in the Steelers’ defense—starters that have been here for more than three years.
His ability to step up and lead by example in games like this, and to come up with timely plays—he also recorded a pressure on a blitz on the Bengals’ final offensive play on third and 14 that forced an incompletion—has been critical in the team’s defensive turnaround over the course of the past five weeks.