Lawrence Timmons recently took a glance at the Steelers roster. He really didn't like what he saw.
“It's not good, I will tell you that,” Timmons said.
Timmons' disgust had nothing to do with a defense that is seemingly on the rise after a couple of thin years while rebuilding. Instead, it all had to do with the number that is now next to his name — 30.
Timmons — Mike Tomlin's first draft pick a decade ago — turned 30 two weeks ago. Timmons is the third oldest defensive player on the team and is one of a dozen thirty-somethings on the Steelers roster.
Some grow old gracefully. Timmons doesn't want to be one of those guys.
“Having that number next to my name is a little weird for me,” Timmons said. “But I guess it is growing on me.”
As Timmons starts his 10th NFL season, his age isn't his only concern.
His contract situation could trump that.
Despite Timmons' still playing at a high level at his inside linebacker position, this could be his final season with the Steelers.
Timmons is in the final year of a $48 million contract he signed in 2011. Due to contract restructures in 2012, 2013 and 2015, his salary cap hit has ballooned to $15.1 million this year — trailing only Ben Roethlisberger's $24 million.
A cap hit as significant as Timmons', combined with his ability to play at a high level, usually suggests a contract extension, which the Steelers did two years ago with aging veterans with big cap hits Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller. But the Steelers needed money then. They don't now, at least not to add years to a 30-year-old veteran's contract.
As the second week of offseason workouts kicks off Tuesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, there has been no such extension for Timmons, bringing it closer to a reality that this could be his last year with the Steelers.
If an extension isn't worked out by the start of the season, Timmons will be an unrestricted free agent in March.
The Steelers have Vince Williams who could fill the void left by Timmons, but Williams will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. The Steelers lost Sean Spence and Terence Garvin to free agency, leaving the position strapped in heir apparents.
As expected, Timmons downplayed his contract situation.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Timmons said. “It is a business. I am just going to show up and do the best that I can. It is not about the money, it is about the love of the game. I am not petty like that. I am not about that. I am not about the money, I am about the team.”
There's no doubt Timmons is still playing at a high level despite his age. Inside linebackers tend to have longer shelf lives than a lot of positions. Nearly half of the projected starting inside linebackers in the NFL are older than Timmons.
“Timmons is a known commodity around here,” defensive end Cam Heyward said.
And a dependable one
Timmons has played in 104 games, and started 85 in a row. Between 2013-14, he played in 1,814 consecutive snaps. Last year, he played in every snap until Week 13 against the Bengals when he was replaced in some passing situations by safety Robert Golden.
Over the final four games, Timmons played in only 83 percent of the Steelers' snaps, which didn't set particularly well with him.
“I always feel that I should be on the field helping my team,” Timmons said.
Even with a change in defensive philosophy, Timmons led the team with 119 tackles, had a team-high four 10-tackle games and was third on the team with five sacks.
Until — or if — Timmons' contract situation is resolved, he's approaching the offseason practices like he always has, and that's improving his game.
“You can always get better,” Timmons said. We feel that we can take that next step. The young guys are really stepping up. We are excited.”