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Analyzing How Pittsburgh Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons Stifles the Passing Game

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Analyzing How Pittsburgh Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons Stifles the Passing Game
Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

Lawrence Timmons has become a key part of how the Pittsburgh Steelers stifle the passing game. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau uses Timmons in a variety of ways to disrupt pass routes and attack protection schemes.

Here are three examples from the Steelers' Monday night victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

All Screen Shots Courtesy of ESPN.

 

Timmons as a Blitzer

The first two examples show how LeBeau is scheming ways to free Timmons on the blitz. On the first play, Timmons is used to blitz the middle.

Take a look at his opening position in the screen shot below.

Timmons is drawing the Chiefs protection towards him, pre-snap.

Notice how Timmons is acting like a roaming mike linebacker before the snap. He is encouraging the Chiefs to base their protection on his movement.

The next screen shot shows how LeBeau splits that protection to give Timmons a free blitz lane through the middle.

By having Larry Foote blitz the edge and James Harrison drop out late, Timmons will have a free rush through the middle.

The Steelers have added fellow inside linebacker Larry Foote next to rush end LaMarr Woodley. This puts two men over right tackle Eric Winston.

It also draws running back Peyton Hillis into pass protection, away from Timmons. At the snap, Timmons will blitz the middle, while Foote attacks the edge.

On the other side, the blue arrow shows James Harrison dropping into coverage over tight end Tony Moeaki.

The screen shot below shows effectively how the play works.

The Steelers have split the pass protection and created a clean blitz lane for Timmons.

The highlighted portion shows Harrison take away obvious third-down target Moeaki. The first red arrow shows Timmons coming through clean and zeroing in on quarterback Matt Cassel.

That's set up by Foote's blitz, which attracts two blockers on the edge, shown by the second red arrow.

Timmons quickly chased Cassel out of the pocket, forcing a desperate heave out of bounds and a punt.

Later in the game, Timmons struck again on another key third down.

This time LeBeau used him as an edge-blitzer. The screen shot below shows his opening position.

Timmons is versatile enough to operate as an outside pass-rusher.

By aligning Timmons as stand-up rusher next to Woodley, the Steelers have an obvious mismatch on that side.

At the snap, LeBeau will attack both edges, shown in the screen shot below.

LeBeau has perfectly schemed a free blitz lane off the edge for Timmons.

LeBeau brings Timmons from one side and safety Will Allen from the other. The red arrow shows Timmons' blitz path and the blue arrow shows Allen's.

By adding Allen to the blitz, LeBeau has again taken the running back away from Timmons. Notice also how Woodley (56), crashes down inside to give Timmons a free rush lane around the corner.

Timmons put a hit on Cassel to force an incomplete pass and end another drive.

Both of these blitzes are only possible because of Timmons' athleticism and versatility. He offers the speed and strength to attack both the edge and the middle with equal effectiveness.

 

Timmons as a Coverage Linebacker

Timmons does a lot of his best work in coverage. It's not unreasonable to suggest he is LeBeau's best underneath coverage defender.

Timmons possesses sharp zone instincts and the range to quickly cover lots of ground and clog passing lanes. His critical overtime interception against the Chiefs is a perfect example.

In the screen shot below, the Steelers are showing their base 3-4 look. Timmons is highlighted and safety Allen is in the red box just behind him.

Timmons is focused on Maneri (87) and McCluster (22).

The blue boxes show the two receivers Timmons will primarily be concerned with. They are slot receiver Dexter McCluster (22) and second tight end Steve Maneri (87).

Pre-snap, it looks like man coverage, with Timmons sure to take Maneri and Allen assigned to McCluster. However, at the snap, Timmons and Allen execute a basic zone exchange, shown in the screen shot below.

Timmons and Allen rotate and swap zone coverage responsibilities.

Allen drifts outside towards the flat, covering Maneri's crossing pattern. Timmons backs off in between the hook and curl zones, initially covering McCluster.

From his position, Timmons can cover any routes across the middle and also spy any throws into the curl zones. It's the ideal underneath position for an athletic linebacker.

Cassel is fooled by the simple rotation between Allen and Timmons and chances the outside curl route to Dwayne Bowe. Timmons simply holds his ground and makes a nice athletic play to steal the ball.

Timmons holds his ground and quickly reacts to steal the ball and win the game.

Cassel made a bad choice and a poor throw, but Timmons' theft was more than luck. Not many linebackers have the understanding and discipline to make this simple coverage scheme so effective.

Timmons is fast becoming the most important member of the Steelers' defense. His scheme-versatility is crucial to LeBeau's multiple system.

LeBeau is using Timmons to key his top-ranked pass defense. Timmons' flexibility means he is the joker in the pack that offenses must account for on every play.

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