Three months removed from turning 30 and potentially entering a “contract year” for the first time, Lawrence Timmons sounds reflective as he embarks on his 10th NFL season.
Mike Tomlin’s first draft pick as coach in 2007 the inside linebacker seemingly all of a sudden has become the second-oldest and most-tenured player on the Steelers’ defense.
“If you’ve been doing it this long, it’s about building a legacy now,” Timmons said outside the Steelers locker room Wednesday at St. Vincent. “At first (in the NFL), it’s, ‘Can I do it?’ Now, you see you can do it. Now you want to see how good you can be (remembered as being).”
Since Tomlin became coach, Timmons is the lone defensive player to play every season for the Steelers. He only has missed two games in that time (both in 2009) and has started the past 84 — the longest active streak on the team.
To borrow a line from Tomlin, he’s been as much a part of the Steelers as blocking and tackling over the past decade.
But with a salary approaching $9 million and a cap hit or more than $15 million this season, Timmons — a Pro Bowler 18 months ago — joins outside linebacker Jarvis Jones as starters on the defense who will be free agents after the season ends.
While there’s still more than a month before the Steelers’ self-imposed deadline of the regular-season opener of Sept. 12 to agree on a contract extension, the Tribune-Review reported when camp opened that the club and Timmons are “not close” to an agreement.
The older and philosophical Timmons is taking the situation in stride publicly:
â¢ Asked his level of confidence that a contract extension will get done, he said, “I’m pretty sure that things are going to work out for the better. Just optimistic, and right now I’m just focused on my job.”
â¢ Asked if he wanted to be a Steeler the rest of his career, Timmons said, “Of course. This is where I started; this is where I want to finish. I love the place here, and being here for 10 years you feel like you are a part of it, you know? But it comes with the territory.”
â¢ Asked if he can believe he’s a 10-year veteran, Timmons said, “I feel like I am still 25. But it is 10 years; I’m 30 now. It’s a beautiful thing, being in the NFL that long, it’s a beautiful fraternity to be a part of and I love it.”
Said teammate Arthur Moats: “He’s at 10 years — but he’s young. He’s young at heart. He came into the league early so he was able to get those years in, but he’s still young. He’s still playing with a lot of passion, and he’s still having fun out there. As long as you’re productive, that’s all that matters.”
Assuming he avoids major injury this autumn, Timmons most assuredly will have opportunities to play an 11th NFL season next fall. But there are serious questions he will do it in Pittsburgh. Not only is he an expensive veteran in his 30s, his backup — the younger and cheaper Vince Williams — is also a pending free agent. It would appear to be unlikely the Steelers would bring back both.
Furthermore, Timmons’ role was diminished last season, if ever so slightly. The primary playcalling duties were transferred to Ryan Shazier. Also, after virtually never coming off the field for several seasons, over the final few games of 2015 Timmons was lifted for passing downs in favor of a dime look featuring safety Robert Golden.
Again, the older, more introspective Timmons chooses to take it all in stride.
“I’m just doing my job, leading the younger guys by example and making plays that I normally make,” he said. “And just having fun.
“I don’t know (how many years are left playing for the Steelers). Lord willing, I’ll just do my part, give my all and just enjoy it.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons drops back into coverage against the Lions during training camp Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.