The Law Dawg

He's no longer a shy, quiet, southern kid. Get to know the next captain of the Steelers' defense: Lawrence Timmons.

On one series at Tuesday's OTA, new Steelers starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was upending Maurkice Pouncey on one snap and then on another he was flying over to the sideline to make up for a missed tackle by cornerback Cortez Allen and hold the explosive Antonio Brown to a short gain.

But on the next series, Shazier is getting blocked easily by one grown man -- David DeCastro -- so that another grown man -- LeGarrette Blount -- can rip off a chunk run right through the gut of the Steelers' defense.

Those will be the ups and downs of a first-round pick who's going to be free to make plays from coordinator Dick LeBeau's playmaking position, the mack, because the old playmaker, Lawrence Timmons, has moved his considerable skills over half a click to the buck, a playcalling bastion of team tradition that's been home to captains Levon Kirkland and James Farrior.

It's now home to the guy Mike Tomlin likes to call "Law Dawg."

"The first day I got all the calls right, just like I did last year," said Timmons. "I'm just excited to get out here and show what I can do."

Back in 2007, Timmons, like Shazier, was the 15th pick of the first round. And like Shazier, Timmons was a 21-year-old rookie. And quiet.

Who wouldn't be quiet around Farrior, Larry Foote and James Harrison?

But all Timmons had to do was run around and make plays -- until last year.

When Foote left the opening game, injured and out for the season, Timmons had to make the calls and set the defensive front. He was forced to grow up. He couldn't be the quiet, southern kid anymore.

"I think I did pretty well for a guy who, in the first game, heard 'Hey, you gotta do this,'" Timmons said. "I pretty much was a little shaky at first, but then I got used to it and then I started becoming a mainstay at making the playcall."

And he was doing it from the mack, where on any play his assignment could range from deep in the secondary to deep in the opponent's backfield.

"Yeah, I called it from the mack," Timmons said. "Vinny (Williams) was the buck last year. I'm the buck now. You are in the box more. I'm going to attack the center and the guard more. I'm not playing in space like I used to. I'm more in the box now. We're going to let Shazier and his speed go out there and cover in space. I'm covering the tight ends and the backs to the flat, so I still get that, but I'm going to be in the box more."

Has Timmons become more of a run defender at the age of 28? Has he grown that stout?

"I don't want to get too thick," he said. "I want to be able to run still. But I also will have to get those guards and centers off of me and make those plays in the gaps."

Timmons has grown, and not just from spending his time in the weight room. There's a true presence about him now.

Like Deshea Townsend a decade before him, Timmons has grown from shy and quiet country kid into team leader. I asked him if he has become Farrior.

"I don't want to say that," Timmons said. "James Farrior's James Farrior."

With the Steelers for 10 seasons, Farrior was the defensive captain the final eight. He had a great understanding of the Steelers' defense, and now so does Timmons. So it's only natural that Timmons step into that role.

Will Timmons wear the "C"? The answer isn't that obvious because Timmons is a guy who left college after only one starting season and played high school ball with current NFL inside linebacker Justin Durant.

Has Timmons ever been a captain?

"Yeah, in high school, of course," he said. "Justin Durant was the captain the year before I was."

And does Timmons feel this is his unit now?

"I'm calling the defense," he said. "But it's a team. It's a team defense."

To that end, Timmons was asked to speak about a couple of the young and important cogs surrounding him.

* On Shazier:

"4.4. What can you say? That's enough said, right? The guy can run down anyone. Amazing athlete. Once he puts it together he's going to be a problem. ... Very positive (attitude). He's our type of guy. I've got nothing but the best things to say about him. ... I'm going to try to help him out the best I can. Anything I see that he might need to know and it's before the snap, I'll give it to him. I want him to be a sponge, just react. If something's too much, tell me and I've got his back."

* On Jarvis Jones:

"He's still working (on his strength). We still have a while. We've got two months till camp, so we have a long way to go. But I know he's staying at the facility with (conditioning) coach (Garrett) Giemont. He's pumping the iron. ... The guy has all the ability. He was an SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He's a hell of an athlete, too."

* On Sean Spence:

"Spence is looking great. He's moving around real well on the grass, making all the calls. He's like a Larry Foote type of guy, as far as having a knowledge of the game. He's always going to be in the right place."

* On Lawrence Timmons:

"I'm pretty much the guy, as far as guys looking up toward a leader. I'm definitely trying to show them how to go about the game. Joey Porter and Coach (Keith) Butler give me tips how to do that. I just enjoy playing anywhere."

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