Steelers RILB Lawrence Timmons entered the season with the goal of being better against the run — and has he ever been.
Entering Week Six, Timmons had a staggering 48 tackles (solo tackles and assists) in four games, which would put him on pace for 192 for the season. Of those 48 tackles, at least 32, or two-thirds overall, were on rushing plays, according to the NFL's official game summaries. (The "at least" qualifier comes from the fact Timmons was initially credited with 13 tackles against Baltimore but was later credited with two more takedowns.)
In a recent interview with PFW, Timmons said his improvement against the run stems from his approach.
"I think it was preparation, like in practice," he said. "I was always trying to work on shuffling my feet, reading the guards, reading my keys, like things like that to help me out. I'm using all of my tools this year, and it's carrying over to Sunday."
Timmons, 24, was an outside linebacker at Florida State in a 4-3 scheme and has shown he can play that position in the Steelers' "30" front, too. But it is his play inside that has turned heads this season. He has been one of the stars of a Steelers defense that's allowing less than three yards per carry and hasn't allowed a run of longer than 12 yards this season. The defense's soundness against the run, Timmons said, stems from players carrying out their responsibilities.
"Nobody's trying to do too much," he said. "Everybody's just doing their job. We just know if we do our job, we know we'll be fine. That's our game plan."
Of course, it's a defense capable of the spectacular, too. Timmons, who runs exceptionally well and cites his ability to "attack the line of scrimmage" as a strength, has that ability, too. Before his run defense came to the fore, his pass-rush ability (13 career sacks) distinguished him.
Timmons said it took him two seasons to get comfortable in Dick LeBeau's defense as he saw playing time outside and inside. He moved into the starting lineup at inside linebacker last season and notched 78 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles.
As it turned out, last year was a stepping-stone to even greater things.
"Last year, I pretty much learned everything, and this year, I'm putting it together," he said. "You can tell I'm more comfortable now. ... I'm just going out there, just playing ball, not thinking, flowing to the ball, and that's what I think is the difference."