At his weekly press conference, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said that Lawrence Timmons “has been very consistent for us in general.”
Yeah, sure, if this were the 2010 season.
Sunday’s performance against the Philadelphia Eagles was the best for Timmons in over a year, or since 2010 when 9-tackle games were the norm for the Steelers’ inside mack linebacker.
Against the Eagles, Timmons led the Steelers with 9 tackles, two of which were for loss. He also forced a fumble – his first forced fumble since Jan. 2, 2011 in the regular-season finale at Cleveland.
Timmons finished that season with 149 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
Last year, Timmons’ tackles dipped by nearly 40 percent and he only caused one turnover.
Up until Sunday, that disappearing act had continued, but on Sunday Timmons was even better than his numbers (9 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 QB hits and the forced fumble), particularly in the first half.
On the first two Eagles possessions, Timmons tackled Michael Vick for no gain, pressured Vick into throwing a ridiculous pop fly that was nearly intercepted by Ryan Clark along the sideline, and recovered a fumble that was later reversed by replay review.
Late in the half, Timmons blitzed up the middle and used a nifty swim move to get past LeSean McCoy before belting Vick. Ziggy Hood made the tackle on what was ruled a QB draw.
Timmons finished the first half by again pressuring Vick into an incompletion.
In the second half, Timmons’s primary job was mirroring McCoy in the flats. But on McCoy’s 15-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, Timmons blitzed up the middle. He was blocked, but sprinted 17 yards up the field to catch and tackle McCoy at the goal line. He was just late, but the hustle had to be appreciated in the film room on Monday.
If you do go back and look back at the tape, you’ll see that Timmons’s shadowing of McCoy was particularly effective during the Eagles’ final drive.
“He did a nice job bottling up a guy like Shady McCoy, who has a unique talent and skill set,” Tomlin said. “I think that sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. Lawrence is a uniquely talented guy. He better bring those weapons to the stadium on Thursday night because Chris Johnson in a uniquely talented guy.”
DEEP IN THE PIT
The Steelers’ run game improved and that no doubt had to do with the return of Rashard Mendenhall. But the tape shows that center Maurkice Pouncey had plenty to do with the Steelers’ success up the middle, regardless of what TV analyst Troy Aikman had to say.
“Some of these runs we’ve seen where they’ve had success have come right over the center-guard,” Aikman said late in the third quarter, “Willie Colon is a big part of that.”
Colon, who committed four holding penalties (two weren’t marked off), did blow open some holes in the run game, but not as many or as consistently as Pouncey, who had at least two players – tackle Derek Landri and linebacker Jamar Chaney – completely frustrated by the end of the game.
Pouncey did sail a shotgun snap over Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder in the first possession. A second snap went awry, too, but it should’ve been caught by the quarterback. Those two plays and one whiff on Chaney were the only minuses for Pouncey.
Pouncey didn’t allow as much as a quarterback pressure, and in the run game he shoved defensive tackles aside and obliterated linebackers to repeatedly open holes for Mendenhall and Isaac Redman. Pouncey also showed off his great range with downfield blocks out in front of screen passes.
ONE-TWO KNOCKOUT PLAY
LaMarr Woodley’s absence from the field wasn’t reported in the press box until he had been on the sideline for two series. But his last play of the game was Troy Polamalu’s last play as well.
On the penultimate play of the first quarter, Timmons hit Vick and forced a fumble which Larry Foote recovered. The fans at Heinz Field whooped it up, even as Polamalu hopped off the field like he was Jack Lambert with a dislocated toe.
Woodley, who had sprinted deep into coverage, left the game quietly without being noticed, but his absence will loom large Thursday night at Tennessee. Tomlin said Woodley has a better chance of playing than does Polamalu, who has been ruled out, but Tomlin isn’t optimistic.
Ryan Mundy missed a few tackles, was the man defending Brent Celek on Celek’s go-ahead touchdown catch, and will be looking at a serious fine for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Tomlin is also considering giving Will Allen time as Polamalu’s replacement Thursday.
Colon is a contender for worst game with his four holding penalties, but his run blocking was certainly a plus.
No, the Steelers’ worst performance Sunday may have been turned in by Mike Wallace, who dropped three passes – one that could’ve been a touchdown and another on the final drive – and committed an illegal formation penalty that brought back Mendenhall’s 24-yard run. On another play, Wallace did not turn his head for a short pass from Roethlisberger.
But at least Wallace won the game. A couple of rookies went back to Philadelphia with saltier wounds.
Linebacker Mychal Kendricks not only had to deal with a feisty Pouncey all afternoon, he was duped by Roethlisberger on a fake pitch during a QB scramble, and then was juked badly by Mendenhall on a 13-yard touchdown run down the sideline.
The other rookie Eagle defender who had a tough day was nickel cornerback Brandon Boykin. The Steelers’ Antonio Brown had warned the media before the game the Steelers were going to pick on Boykin, and they did just that on a pair of critical third downs on the game-winning drive.
In fact, before the third-and-4 play, just before the ball was snapped, one of the Steelers yelled out, “We see you 22!” And then Emmanuel Sanders caught a pass right over Boykin, No. 22, for a first down in field-goal range.