There’s been a lot of discussion this offseason about the need for young players and reserves to carve out big roles on a Steelers defense that’s lost veteran leaders like linebacker James Harrison and defensive tackle Casey Hampton.
Such needs go beyond those groups of players, however. There’s also a need for some of the team’s established starters to move into more prominent spots, with linebacker Lawrence Timmons near the top of that list. Timmons is coming off a strong season — 106 tackles, three interceptions and six sacks — and Ralph N. Paulk of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “it’s clear” the team is expecting him to fill some of the leadership void on defense this season. It’s a role Timmons is happy to fill with both words and actions.
“I look at myself as a game-changer, and I try to make that a facet of my game,” Timmons said. “I look forward to those opportunities, because I want to live up to those expectations. … I have to assert myself in a certain way. I don’t feel as if I have to force anything. I just have to play my game.”
At 27 with a contract that runs through 2016 and plenty of experience in the Steelers’ way of playing defense, Timmons is positioned to become a cornerstone as the team transitions away from the previous generation of defensive stars. If the team turns up a few more players like him, that transition should be one that continues the tradition of strong defenses in Pittsburgh.