View Full Version : Steelers’ best camp battle is win-win situation

06-19-2008, 01:46 AM
Steelers’ best camp battle is win-win situation
Thursday, June 19, 2008 | Posted by Kyle Chrise
http://www.realfootball365.com/index.ph ... lers/11679 (http://www.realfootball365.com/index.php/articles/steelers/11679)

When Pittsburgh hits Latrobe, Pa., this summer for training camp, it'll have to settle some issues that are causing a bit of anxiety among Steelers fans. The biggest of those is the future look of the offensive line after losing superb left guard Alan Faneca during the offseason. The Steelers will also have to decide who starts at free safety and who will handle returns on special teams. But the most exciting battle of training camp is shaping up to be for the starting inside linebacker position. In one corner, there’s incumbent starter Larry Foote, a seven-year veteran. The challenger is Mike Tomlin’s first draft pick as a head coach, Lawrence Timmons, last year’s first-rounder.

Tomlin and his staff hoped their rookie could be a jack-of-all-trades linebacker capable of playing the outside, inside and making an impact on special teams. But his NFL schooling hit the skids when Timmons stood on the sidelines all last spring with a groin injury. Largely because of that, Timmons racked up only 13 tackles as a rookie. Despite that, Timmons is going to get a chance to start in 2008, which is a surprise to many who followed the team last year.

The bottom line is that something was different about Timmons last month at spring drills, and everyone noticed it. Tomlin was one of the first to say the former Florida State Seminole might give Foote a run for his money.

“It’s the difference between night and day, between what he showed us this weekend and what he showed us last year.” Tomlin said in May about Timmons. “The pedigree is still there, and we’re excited about what he brings to the table.”

It’s going to take more than a good spring to wrestle the starting spot from Foote, of course. For the last four years, he’s been the starting mack inside linebacker. During that time, Foote started all 64 games. In 2005, he led the team with 123 tackles. And he accomplished it without playing in the dime package. Foote was among those who saw Timmons’ potential at spring practices.

“My time might be winding down at that position.” Foote said after one practice. “It’s just a matter of when the coaches throw him in there.”

Timmons definitely has the right ingredients to be a starter in Pittsburgh. He’s fast, quick and athletic. When he was drafted 15th overall last year, he was seen as someone who might be able to replace Joey Porter at OLB (James Harrison’s 108 tackles and 10 sacks filled those shoes nicely). Now that Timmons has learned more about the defense, the Steelers want that investment to pay dividends. Consider this: In the last 16 seasons, only one of their first-round picks didn’t become a starter by his second season (offensive tackle Jamain Stephens in 1996).

A battle this spectacular at training camp can only raise the level of the entire group of exciting linebackers. LaMarr Woodley aims to join Harrison on the outside and is expected to have a breakout season. Defensive captain James Farrior enters his seventh season with the Steelers at the buck inside linebacker position. Farrior says the battle between Foote and Timmons is wide open right now.

“It’s going to be exciting to see which guys really want the position and step up and make a contribution,” Farrior said at spring practices.

Even if Timmons wins the starting job, don’t expect Foote and his signature stomp to go anywhere. Foote is signed through 2010, and this is Farrior’s last year on his contract. If the 33-year-old goes elsewhere in 2009, it’s possible the Steelers could move Timmons to the buck position and return Foote to the mack. The buck position may be a better fit for Timmons. It requires someone fast and quick who can drop and cover receivers. Timmons has the speed and athleticism, but he’s struggled in coverage. That may be one reason why Timmons has been playing alongside Farrior in a version of Pittsburgh's dime package that uses two inside linebackers.

Both Foote and Timmons are playing it cool so far. Training camp is just around the corner, and the two combatants know actions are going to speak louder than words. Consider this the trailer to a Steelers sequel that, for the team's fans, could put the Hulk and Batman to shame.

06-19-2008, 08:13 AM
I can't wait for camp to start. Then, the season is right around the corner!! Our LBers are gonna be goood this year!!

06-19-2008, 08:45 AM
I think that with the addition of Woodley and Timmons last year and Davis and Humpal this year the organization has taken a big step rebuilding the LB corps on our defense. The lack of depth the past several years has been an issue. Does anyone really think that Andre Frazier or Arnold Harrison would ever be contributing players?

I think Woodley and Timmons both have an excellent season in 2008. Woodley will have 10-12 sacks and Timmons could have 5 sacks and 3 INTs. My only concern is Woodley's ability to play in space and opponents exploiting his pas rush to go around and over top of him.