LATROBE, Pa. -- When the Pittsburgh Steelers made Lawrence Timmons the first draft pick of the Mike Tomlin era, they liked the Florida State product in part because he had the versatility and speed to play inside or outside.
Timmons, after a slow start to his Steelers career, has established himself as one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL. And he probably should have realized by now his lifelong dream of going to Hawaii to play in the Pro Bowl.
Timmons has indeed been that good the last two seasons.
Timmons, who has started 53 consecutive regular-season games, has played outside linebacker during his career when injuries necessitated a move. But the eighth-year veteran doesn’t see that happening this season even though the Steelers have little proven depth at the position.
“I think we’ve got enough outside linebackers now to where I’m not needed there anymore,” said Timmons, who led the Steelers with 126 tackles last season. “I’m strictly inside.”
Timmons singled out Vic So'oto, who signed a futures contract with the Steelers last January, and rookie Howard Jones as two outside linebackers who have a chance to provide depth along with Arthur Moats and Chris Carter.
So’oto has NFL experience, having played in six games with three different teams. Jones is an intriguing prospect; the undrafted free agent entered Shepherd University, a Division II school in West Virginia, as a wide receiver and left as an outside linebacker -- and with the school’s record for career sacks (35).
Timmons’ belief that he will strictly play inside linebacker reinforces my belief that the Steelers won’t have any interest in bringing back James Harrison unless injuries change the outlook at outside linebacker.
Harrison would strictly provide depth, and the five-time Pro Bowler is not a special-teams player at this point of his career. The Steelers, meanwhile, will apparently try to build depth at outside linebacker through younger players who may also be able to help them on special teams.