The Steelers long have had a policy of locking up their core players through the prime years of their careers, and so it was with Lawrence Timmons.
Timmons, the first No. 1 pick of the Mike Tomlin era, agreed to terms with the Steelers on a six-year contract that will bind him to the team through the 2016 season. Timmons had been operating under the contract he had signed as a rookie in 2007.
On the day he was drafted, Timmons was described by Tomlin as a run-hit linebacker, and he has grown into that description both literally and figuratively. On the day he was drafted, Timmons was a 20-year-old from Florida State who had been a full-time starter for only one of his three seasons with the Seminoles. Today, Timmons is an impressive physical specimen who will enter his third season as a full-time starter at inside linebacker for the Steelers, and is a player considered to be a Pro Bowl selection-in-waiting.
"When I was playing in college, guys were only two or three years older or younger than you, no more than that," said Timmons before the start of the 2010 season. "I get (to Pittsburgh) and there is a 10-year difference in some cases. It was a big difference. I did feel like a child in a man's game. In college at Florida State I wasn't as big. I was 225. Being in the middle in the NFL you have to have some meat on you. That has helped out. I put on some pounds with age so I think that has worked out."
During a career that has included 30 NFL starts, Timmons has 308 tackles to go along with 15 sacks, two interceptions and seven passes defensed. In the 2010 postseason, Timmons finished with 21 tackles and two passes defensed in the Steelers' run to the AFC Championship.
Upon his arrival in Pittsburgh, Timmons found he had a lot to learn, not only about the position of inside linebacker in the Steelers defense but also about being a professional. It was James Harrison who took Timmons under his wing and taught him a lot of what he needed to know.
"I learn a lot from his example and work ethic, how he carries himself," said Timmons about Harrison. "That's something I want to strive for. I like the way he handles himself, working out, watching film, running to the ball and his tenacity for the game. He tells me things about how to shed a blocker, things you do when you're rushing. Stuff like that."
Of the four starting linebackers, three already have made the Pro Bowl at least once. Timmons now strives to join Harrison, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley in the pantheon of Steelers linebackers who have been voted to the Pro Bowl.
"Of course I want to be there," said Timmons about the Pro Bowl. "That's something I want to experience in my life. I have to take it to the next level with my game. That has a lot to do with it."
Since the lockout was lifted on July 25, the Steelers have re-signed three of their starting defensive players to long-term contracts – Ike Taylor, Woodley and now Timmons.