By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — At 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, Lawrence Timmons now looks the part, but it remains to be seen if he can play a starring role.
Timmons, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 1 pick in 2007, has bulked up a bit and worked hard since then and is poised to replace Larry Foote as a starting inside linebacker for the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense.
And it’s not a role that the third-year player takes lightly.
“I know it looks like the job was handed to me, but it’s really not,” Timmons said. “I have to go out there and perform every day on the field, in practice and in the games, but that’s nothing I haven’t been doing for years. Playing football hasn’t changed that much for me.”
After several minor injuries and limited production as a rookie, the 23-year-old Timmons played in every game last season and was quite productive. He’ll be asked to do even more this season as a pass-rusher, run-stopper and occasionally dropping back into pass coverage. And a lot is expected.
“Things are going pretty well for me so far, but I know I have big shoes to fill,” Timmons said. “Larry and James Farrior, they’ve helped me out a lot. So, I believe I’m ready to take that next step.”
Count Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler among those who feel the same way about Timmons.
“Timmons played a lot last season, especially on passing downs, and he’s a big-time hitter,” Butler said. “So, we think he’ll do just fine as an every-down player. He’s still learning, but he’s getting better all the time. And he has all the talent in the world, so it’s our job to help bring that out of him.”
Timmons actually was Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s first NFL Draft pick, as the club took him with the 15th overall selection in 2007.
Let’s Get It Right
After about a half hour during the 90-minute Saturday morning workout, Tomlin gathered the Steelers together in the middle of the field and appeared to give them a good tongue lashing.
While all the words weren’t audible, the intention was clear. Tomlin certainly let the team know that a lackadaisical attitude would not be tolerated. Sure, they had a good workout the night before, and this wasn’t much more than a light walk-through. But a more business-like approach was needed.
“He basically just told us that it looked like we were going through the motions,” second-year defensive back Roy Lewis said. “We got the message and were a little sharper the rest of the way.”
Just Stopped By
Apparently the Steelers had two interior linemen in for brief workouts Friday. Alex Stepanovich, a six-year veteran who was with the Atlanta Falcons last season, and rookie Alex Derenthal from Temple were on campus.
Stepanovich, who played at Ohio State and was a fourth-round draft pick and former starter for the Arizona Cardinals, was released by the Falcons in June.
Derenthal signed as an undrafted rookie with the New York Giants, but he was released before the start of their training camp.
Wideouts Martin Nance (leg) and Brandon Donovan (ribs), tight end-fullback Sean McHugh (left knee), outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (right knee), defensive tackle Scott Paxson (right knee) and defensive end Sonny Harris (groin) did not take part in the individual or brief team portion of the brief morning practice. More should be known later today.
There was an 11-on-11 session that lasted about 10 minutes to end Saturday morning’s practice, but the second- and third-team groups received the majority of the reps there.
It appeared that the short passing game, underneath routes and dump-offs to the running backs, was the primary focus.
Lend A Hand
After the morning practice, 11-year veteran defensive end Aaron Smith remained for some 15-20 minutes to work individually with No. 1 pick Ziggy Hood. The two worked on Hood’s footwork and technique over and over until Smith was satisfied that Hood got it right.
The Steelers also have an afternoon practice today and just one workout Sunday afternoon. Both are at 3 p.m.
The club also will work out Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the preseason opener against Arizona Thursday night at 8 at Heinz Field.