Foote, Timmons battle for linebacker position
By John Harris
Thursday, August 14, 2008
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Lawrence Timmons may be the Steelers' future at right inside linebacker. But for Larry Foote, the future is now.

Foote, a former fourth-round draft pick from Michigan entering his seventh NFL season, has made 64 consecutive regular-season starts and ranked third on the team last year with 69 tackles.

But to remain the starter, Foote will have to fight off a challenge from Timmons, last year's first-round pick. The battle continues tonight in Toronto, where the Steelers play an exhibition game against the Buffalo Bills.

"I'm playing well," said Foote, a 6-foot-1, 239-pounder. "This is my seventh camp, so I know how to thrive and stay healthy.

"I'm not going to lose my spot physically with my play. That's just the confidence I have in myself that I'm always going to perform at a high level."

Timmons, 22, is six years younger than Foote, and his closing speed makes him a legitimate threat as a playmaker. The 6-1, 234-pounder is expected to play considerably more this season.

But, at least for now, Foote remains the starter.

"The media made a big deal out of the competition," Foote said. "I knew it was coming. He's a good talent. He's a high draft pick. You can think like that, but I know what I can do. I've done it year in and year out.

"Is (Timmons) going to be the future of the Steelers? Yeah, no doubt about it if he keeps progressing. But my play's not going to make the coaches sit me. If that's what they're waiting on, that's not going to happen."

Asked about Foote's performance in training camp, coach Mike Tomlin replied, "He's responded the way I expected him to, which is to try to get better and give us an honest day's work. He understands his competition, and I think he's embraced that."

Foote said the coaches haven't discussed his competition with Timmons.

"I have no idea," he said. "They really haven't sat us down. He's been playing a lot of stuff that (safety) Troy (Polamalu) plays. So when Troy gets back, I don't know what they're going to do.

"The linebackers here are required to do a lot. Just the fire zone (defense) concept. You think you've got one man, but (if) they do something else, you've got somebody else. You've got to really be able to think on the run."

Foote's unwavering confidence comes from a belief that his body of work with the Steelers speaks for itself.

"I don't know what the coaches are going to do. But if they're sitting in a meeting room, it's not going to be a discussion that Foote ain't playing up to par, so let's get him out of there," Foote said.

"I've always been an underdog - from Little League to high school to college, to barely getting drafted.

"I'm small. Some people say I'm slow. I keep thriving. My numbers stack up with any linebacker, and I'm on the field probably (only) 70 percent of the plays. In this defense, if you know what you're doing, you're going to make your numbers."

John Harris can be reached at [email=""][/email] or 412-481-5432.