After a two week break in handing out new deals, the [intlink id=”23″ type=”category”]Pittsburgh Steelers[/intlink] returned to form earlier today by announcing linebacker [intlink id=”114″ type=”category”]Lawrence Timmons[/intlink] has agreed to a six year $50 million contract extension. Timmons, Mike Tomlin’s first ever draft choice, was in the final year of his rookie contract. A first rounder out of Florida State, LT was the 15th player taken overall, one spot later than superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis. In fact, the sneaky Jets traded their first, second and fifth round picks that year to cut ahead of the Steelers because they knew we had our vacation plans booked for Revis Island if he was still on the board.
Timmons played sparingly his rookie year, as is usual with Dick LeBeau’s complex defense. After seeing a gradual increase in playing time in his second year, the Steelers parted ways with veteran Larry Foote paving the way for Timmons to take over one of the starting ILB spots in year number three. He battled a high ankle sprain and struggled noticeably in run support. Last year, he finally experienced his break out season, leading the team in tackles while forcing two fumbles and snagging two interceptions. It is this ability to play all over the field, in a sort of rover role normally reserved for [intlink id=”57″ type=”category”]Troy Polamalu[/intlink], which finally made people sit up and take notice of Timmons’ superior athletic ability.
Speaking of Troy, the extension of Timmons leaves him and [intlink id=”82″ type=”category”]Mike Wallace[/intlink] as the sole big name players eligible for free agency next year. With no more negotiations likely to take place before the beginning of the season, it looks like the Steelers are taking a wait-and-see approach with their superstar safety. I love Troy, he’s one of the most dynamic and exciting players I’ve ever seen, but he’s 30 and has battled injuries for a large part of the past two seasons. A healthy Troy is a game changing force-of-nature, a hobbled Troy is merely average.
There’s an adage popularized by former Pirates GM Branch Rickey but it also applies to football, “I’d rather part ways with a player one year too early than one year too late.” The Steelers have seemingly lived by that motto. Even stars like Joey Porter, who have been productive if not spectacular since leaving the Black and Gold, have found themselves exiled by the team when they determined his level of play no longer matched up with his expected salary. The Steelers certainly don’t want to get into a Bob Sanders situation where you build your defense around a spectacular player who invariably winds up getting hurt every season.
For the record, I don’t expect Troy to be wearing another uniform in 2012. With Aaron Smith in the final year of his deal and their patience with James Harrison growing thinner by the day, there’ll be cap room for both Troy and Wallace next season even if the team has to Franchise one or the other. What this deal does do is re-affirm the Steelers commitment to a youth movement on defense. This kind of thinking two or three steps ahead is why the Pittsburgh Steelers are the one of the most consistently winning franchises in all of sports.