It was reported yesterday evening that inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons agreed to a two-year contract to take his talents to South Beach, playing for the Miami Dolphins, on a field on which he threw up, for $12 million over that span.
The Steelers were reportedly offering a similar deal, but the Dolphins’ contract included $11 million guaranteed. Pittsburgh’s contracts typically have the lowest percentage of guaranteed money in the league.
However it happened, however, it was a bit of a sad day in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, as Timmons represented an important era for the club. He was the first draft pick ever made by Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Timmons’ 10-year playing career paralleled Tomlin’s 10 years in Pittsburgh.
He was in many ways a favored son of Tomlin’s, or so some of his other veteran teammates would joke about the way the head coach treated him in practice. I recall one anecdote I believe from Cameron Heyward, who complained that Tomlin always awarded Timmons the victory in the ‘get-off’ drill no matter how much Heyward insisted that he had.
Timmons is, quite frankly, the most recent player in Steelers history to uphold their legacy of excellent linebackers, not only in terms of performance but longevity. He finished his career in Pittsburgh with 981 tackles, 35 and a half sacks, 12 interceptions, and 13 forced fumbles, doing so as a starter for eight years and as an iron man in terms of durability for the vast majority of it.
There are not many players in the league who have put up the sort of numbers that Timmons has in diverse categories. He has produced 25 turnovers and recorded over 30 sacks while registering nearly 1000 tackles. I would defy anybody to declare that is not a strong body of work.
It took Timmons a couple of years to crack the starting lineup behind stalwarts such as James Farrior and Larry Foote, but he did so after two seasons, and despite battling injuries that year early on, he recorded seven sacks and forced four fumbles.
It was really the next season in 2010 during which he began to play at a Pro Bowl level, although he would not actually receive that recognition until several years later in 2014. In 2010, however, he recorded 135 tackles in addition to three sacks, forcing two fumbles and picking off two passes while getting a hand on nine others. It’s even more baffling in hindsight how he was not in the Pro Bowl that year.
Timmons has been heavily criticized by the fan base over the course of the past two years, citing missed tackles and lapses in coverage, and in truth, those criticisms can in no way be dismissed. He has undoubtedly been a liability at times, but he has also been a great strength for most of his playing time.
Still, the Steelers were ready to move on if they had to, and they would not match Miami’s guaranteed money. As unfortunate as it is that Timmons will not get the chance to play his entire career in Pittsburgh, it’s time for Vince Williams to get his opportunity. But that’s a topic for another day.