Steelers Extend Timmons For Six Years

No one should say the Steelers are cheap.

A couple of weeks after working out a deal to keep LaMarr Woodley in Pittsburgh for six more years with a $61.5 million deal, Pittsburgh has re-upped Lawrence Timmons for five six years (PFT’s initial report got the years wrong). The deal is reportedly worth $50 million.

By signing Timmons now, Pittsburgh’s biggest remaining item on the to-do list for upcoming free agents is safety Troy Polamalu, but with Timmons re-signed Pittsburgh can also franchise Polamalu if they need to.

In the early 1990s, the Steelers were seemingly incapable of keeping their best free agents. Rod Woodson, Chad Brown and Leon Searcy were among the players who left Pittsburgh near the peak of their career.

Nowadays? Pittsburgh may lose a backup or a player on the downside of his career, but it’s hard to remember the last significant player the Steelers lost to free agency without some other backstory. Plaxico Burress is probably the best example, but in that case, Burress’ makeup played a part in the decision.

The Steelers have managed to keep Hines Ward for his entire career. Heath Miller will be a Steeler for at least 10 years, as he’s signed through 2014. Ben Roethlisberger is under contract until 2015. On defense, Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton have all become Steelers for life (or at least for 10+ years). James Harrison, Woodley and Timmons are all locked up for years. Ike Taylor joined the 10+years with the Steelers club with his new deal.

All in all, Pittsburgh has managed to keep everyone they’ve really wanted to keep since reaching the Super Bowl during the 2005 season. That’s a pretty impressive feat.

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  • ted

    I have mixed feelings on this signing. On the plus-side, I am relieved and excited that we locked up Timmons long-term. He is still very young and improving rapidly, and thus should be one of the league’s better LBs in coming years. Moreover, with the number of retirees and departures the Steelers will painfully experience on defense over the next few years, it was essential to keep Woodley and Timmons as cornerstones for the future along with the two young DEs.

    But 5 years, $50 million for a 3-4 ILB with how reduced the overall team salary cap figures are right now? That was excessive. Even after the Woodley signing, I predicted 6 years for $42 million for Timmons, but was hoping for a little less or a backloaded contract, although that would matter less since Timmons should still be in his prime in 5-6 years.

    It will take at least a couple of more seasons before the league returns to the cap level from 3 years ago, and the Steelers are now in major salary-cap hell for future years, especially due to all the guaranteed restructures that justifiably needed to be done this year to get under the cap and still have flexibility to compete for another SB title right now when are odds are greater than they will be for at least several seasons.

    Timmons should be an everydown player and he was much more so last season as LeBeau wisely elected to keep his best players (his LBs) on the field more often rather than go dime and bring in another subpar reserve DB. He eventually needs to replace Farrios as the third-down mike backer when the team does use dime.

    Pass rushers make huge buck, so Woodley had to get his 10 mill per year based on market trends. But ILBs, particularly in the 3-4, do not regularly get paydays like this. Heck, what ILB in a 3-4 makes $10 million per year? Plus, we had negotiating leverage due to to another year on his contract and the threat of using the franchise tag, so the Steelers should have gotten a better hometown discount for extending him early.

    But in addition to position differences in pay and in importance to LeBeau’s defense (where OLBs have always been the key), Woodley has simply been better than Timmons. Woodley started his second year and was a key player especially late in the season on a SB title team while TImmons was the No. 5 LB who still backed up Larry Foote and had trouble with rushing plays right at him.

    In 2009, Timmons became a starter and improveed from his first three years. He was brilliant at times, great in coverage, and very effective on unrecognized delayed blitzes, because of his explosive quickness. Unfortunately, he over-pursued too often, made some mental mistakes, and was pushed back too easily at times when he had to engage a pulling lineman. Moreover, the Steelers’ defense collapsed during the second half of that season after Troy got injured, with Woodley really the only defender who played well during that stretch. Woodley finished the forgettable 2009 regular season with a team-high 13.5 sacks and was selected for the Pro Bowl, an honor Timmons has yet to attain.

    Now, in 2010, Timmons was arguably our best defensive player for the first six games and had a wonderful season, where he led the team in tackles for the first time, became predominately an everydown-player for the first time in his pro career, and alleviated or completely eradicated his weaknesses from previous seasons.

    A solid argumet could be made that Timmons deserved a Pro Bowl invite over Ray Lewis last season. But Woodley was just as good, tallying his third consecutive season with double-digit regular-season sacks, and improving his overall play against the run (where he is awesome and has no problem engaging tackles) and versus the pass, where he has elevated his game from a big-guy with good instincts but some match-up problems to an above-average pass defender among 3-4 OLBs despite his mammoth size for the position. Plus, Woodley was a first alternate for the Pro Bowl last season. TImmons was not, although it is tougher for ILBs due to less spots, although there are still fewer starters at ILB and less great players.

    Finally, Woodley arguably rivals Roethlisberger as the Steelers best playoff performer. He has started seven playoff games, recording an NFL-postseason record sack in all of them, and another record for most total sacks over 7 consecutive playoff games with 11. Timmons has been just another guy for the most part in the postseason.

    Now, Steeler fans should be excited that both these studs are back. But based on the market-rate for their positions and their resumes, Woodley and the Steelers both got a good deal on his long-term contact while the Steelers overpaid for Timmons. Woodley got guaranted money on a long-term deal and the Steelers saved a few mill per year compared to what he would get on the open market and especially for his 2011 cap hit compared to his franchise tag.

    Timmons better become a perennial Pro Bowler with this deal, (and I think there is a good chance he will or I would be upset with this signing and I am not).  But you have to compare salaries for two guys at the same position group who were drafted in the same year, and Woodley is worth a lot more right now than Timmons for such contract extensions.


    • Cols714

      I fail to see why you are criticizing this deal. Timmons is just as good, if not better than Patrick Willis. He’s probably the best 3-4 middle linebacker in the NFL. The Steelers locked him up. They’ve locked Woodley up and also just drafted 2 3-4 DEs. This basically insures the defense will continue to be pretty good going forward.

      Yet you are going to ding the Steelers based on absolutely nothing other than you think you could have negotiated a better contract from the team’s point of view. You have absolutely no evidence that you or the team could have done this. Just because you wish it doesn’t mean you could make it happen.

      Just be glad they signed him and Woodley to reasonable deals.

      • GlennW

        Also, the Timmons deal is reportedly 6 years, $50m (granted, one of those years replaced Timmons’ cheaper 2011 contractual season), $18m guaranteed.  That really doesn’t seem bad at all to me.

      • GlennW

        Also, the Timmons deal is reportedly 6 years, $50m (granted, one of those years replaced Timmons’ cheaper 2011 contractual season), $18m guaranteed.  That really doesn’t seem bad at all to me.

        • EasyLikeSundayMorning

          The guaranteed money is what matters most. $18mm over a 6 year deal really isn’t all that much of a risk. As a point of comparison, even though it is a different position, Joe Thomas just got $40mm guaranteed over 7. If he goes down with an injury or doesn’t perform, that would be a real albatross.

      • GlennW

        Also, the Timmons deal is reportedly 6 years, $50m (granted, one of those years replaced Timmons’ cheaper 2011 contractual season), $18m guaranteed.  That really doesn’t seem bad at all to me.

      • Steeler Stan

        I had the same reaction as Ted. Timmons is not only not as good as Patrick Willis when both players are healthy, he’s also constantly nicked up.  Plus, even more than Willis he’s dependent on his speed to be effective and that will fade over time.  That makes him a bad player to gamble on long-term.  I always get just a little excited whenever I see that the Steelers have re-signed a player I like and I did get that same feeling when I read about this.  However, like Ted, when I saw the terms of this deal I was taken aback and got the feeling that this deal was going to hurt us in the future.

      • ted

        For a three-paragraph post, I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Are you Colbert’s 8-year-old son? The guy is a great exec, but he can do no wrong in your book. Nothing the front office or staff does should ever be questioned or critiqued in your Orwellian world. Next you are going to be praising the Alonzo Jackson pick, because “everyone knew we needed depth at OLB that year” and it is our most important position. After all, we had returning were starters Jason Gildon (our all-time sack leader coming off another solid year), young superstar Joey Porter (who was just selected first-team All-Pro) and super-sub Clarke Haggans, who had shown himself to be a solid No. 3 OLB and Gildon’s eventual replacement. But I think the Jackson pick may have not be as bad as the logic exhibited in your post.

        I like Timmons. He is very good and going to be great for many years. But Willis is probably already the best ILB in football and the two are not even in the same league at this point. Players, scouts, NFL execs, media experts, analysts, coaches,  etc., all agree with me and Stan that your premise that Timmons is better than Willis at this point is not even debateable.

        I am happy about his signing, but I would have had a ceiling of at least a mill lower per year when I started negotiating. If he didn’t sign for the team’s max offer, fine. Tell him it is his right to take a chance on getting injured this year; oh, and we may franchise you as well next year. That’s what we said to Casey Hampton and he inked for about half of what he could have landed on the open market two years ago.

        Finally, when 43 retires (which could be after this year considering his injuries and refreshing perspective on life), I am concerned that our defense will not be “pretty good going forward.” Our front seven will be fine, in large part due to these LB extensions and the two DE draft picks, both of which I really liked and, in fact, called for in the case of Hood over Max Unger, while saying Heyward was the best player on the board by far when we picked and making it cleard that I did not want to reach for a DB at that spot.

        But our front seven was solid in 02 when our secondary was obliterated by any decent opponent late in the season. With Troy, Ike and Clark probably each having an absolute max of three more decent years (and 1-2 f these three may play that long at a high level or at all), the secondary is a huge concern for the future. But don’t worry, because Jason Worilds will play SS or be the lockdown corner when one of those two studs  leave, since he still won’t be starting at OLB before he is an UFA barring injury.

        • Cols714

          My criticism is based on the unsubstantiated assertion by you that they would be able to extend Timmons for less money than what they gave him. You have no idea if this is true or not. You just wish it was so.

          I don’t mind criticizing the front office, it’s the unending repeating of things that you  like to assert with almost no proof. It’s this constant refrain of Worilds was a bad pick (he may be, we don’t know yet), Colon is a guard, you would have drafted better because you watch youtube, etc.

          Nobody is going to defend Alonzo Jackson, Bruce Davis, or Ricardo Colclough, that’s for sure.

          • Ted

            If we could not extend him for 7 mill a year or less despite his having 0 Pro Bowl appearances, only 2 years as a full-time starter, only 1 year as a very good player, us giving him protection against injury this year by negotiating a year early, and while we hold the threat of using the franchise tag against him next offseason, then we should have told his agent, you have 24 hours to take our max offer, or we will use that money elsewhere now and talk to you after the season. If he doesn’t take it, we re-evaluate after the season and could end up paying more. But that is how you negotiate when you the team holds most of the cards.

            I like Colon at right tackle and got drilled on this forum for saying he was arguably the best RT in the NFL two years ago. He undoubtedly needed to be at tackle in 08 and 09 (even though his upside was probably greater at guard), because we needed him there since we never tackles in the first two rounds. I just would prefer to have at least tried Flozell at RT and WIllie at RG for one season (which could have been an absolute dominating run-blocking duo) instead of using the revolving door of borderline roster players we keep trying at guard (Foster, Hills, Legursky, Essex, etc.). And it’s not just me, it was the Chicago Bears (who offered more than us) and apparently other teams that had interest in Colon, like the Bills, who thought his best position could be guard.

            You are not defending Jackson now obviously, but my guess is you would have at the time. BTW and JJ can verify this, I thought Jackson was a bad pick bound to be a bust when we selected him. I had followed his career since HS at Americus and knew he was athletically too-limited and too big at that time (266) to play 3-4 OLB. In contrast, I had Worilds in one of the Fanhouse mocks I did for JJ in the second round (because I knew the Steelers liked him and Colbert reaches for OLBs even when they are not a prime need) and actually had him No. 5 on my value board in the third round, and No. 1 on that board in the fourth round. Based on what happened at OLB after we picked and where he was projected, there was at least a 50-50 shot we could have got him in the third round. And if not, you take another from that deep pool of 3-4 OLBs from that draft to be a back-up for a few years, addressing your much more immediate (next 2 years) need at OT with you know who.

          • Cols714

            Once again, you have absolutely no idea if the Steelers would be able to re-sign Timmons for less. None. So quit saying they could have. It is so tiring to listen to fans like you bang on every bad pick they have ever made and act like they have no idea what they are doing. It’d be one thing if they sucked, however they’ve been in 3 Super Bowls in the last six years.

            And no, I would never defend a bad pick. But listening to people like you make it seem like you would have made every pick that came out well for the Steelers and also would not have made every pick that turned out badly. In the past ten years they’ve picked many many more great players than shitty ones. Even picks that you probably hated, Spaeth, Essex, Colon, Timmons, etc. have turned out to be pretty damn useful. Hell, Worilds was pretty decent in the Miami game and on special teams last year and maybe they don’t make it to the Super Bowl without him.

            But go on, assert that you would have done better and been a better negotiator than one of the best franchises of the last twenty years.

            Every time you write a post I have to hear about Alonzo Jackson (who was picked 10 freaking years ago), Jason Worlids, and how you would have signed this player for less. It gets really tiresome. Find some new material already.

            This is not to say you can’t criticize them. The Santonio trade was especially bad and yes they’ve drafted some pretty terrible players. But don’t act like they don’t know what they are doing. The proof is in the record.

          • ted

            We did not have to sign TImmons! That is what you seem incapable of grasping. It was advantageous for both sides to come to an agreement, but far more for Timmons at this time, I did not say we  could have signed him for less. My point is that we should  have signed him for less or not offered him this much before the season. If we could not reach an agreement for less, let the season play out. 3-4 ILBs have never been that important to this defense and we just made a guy who has mostly been a part-time player and has never been to a Pro Bowl one of the richer ILBs in pro football history in a time when the cap is absurdly low. Earth to Cols, the Steelers did not need to sign Timmons this August. You write like the clock was ticking and that we would lose him for sure if did not sign. Wrong, he had another year on his contact, and we could still franchise him.

            What is tiresome is your blind homerism and – to be blunt – ignorance on most things. Of course Colbert is great and Khan even better. They are the best in the business. But they deserve criticism when they screw-up and can have some of their good decisions questioned. I don’t think any Steelers fan is upset with this signing. We all wanted Timmons long-term. But you lose all credibility on being objective or informed when you wrote that Timmons is a better ILB than Patrick Willis right now. Only a delusional homer could make that claim.

            Incidentally, I liked the Colon pick, because of the toughness evident in his scouting report, although admittedly I did not know much about him coming out of Hofstra. Of course, I like almost all o-line picks, because they have been made so rarely in premium rounds in recent years, and I guess the fourth round is pretty early for o-linemen taken under Colbert.

            Again, unlike the Jackson pick which I unfortunately and correctly pegged as a bust immediately, my problem with Worilds was not the player (heck, I defended him against PFW, which absurdly called him one of the five biggest reaches and worst picks made by any team in the 2010 NFL Draft), but rather in using a second-round pick on a guy who will not start barring injury for at least three years and possibly before he is an UFA.

            You should not reach at a major need position or you end up with Troy Edwards. But you also can’t use second-round picks in the free-agency era on a luxury, projected reserve who is expected to not play much at all for a few years because he comes in behind one of the best OLB duos in NFL history, and LeBeau and Butler historically have not rotated in back-up LBs much. Moreover, we had just added Foote to be a well-paid fifth LB, and Timmons offered flexibility to go outside if needed, which is what happened despite us having a second-round pick around. It’s not like we needed OL or CBs in that draft, right? And BTW, I would say about 80% of Steeler fans were not happy with that pick after we made it and 90% were in shock. We did not get great value at that spot either, since most had him projected around the third round or later, and it was a deep draft for 3-4 OLB prospects in rounds 4-6. Worilds better turn out a Pro Bowler or it was dumb. Oh, and I have written twice in these blogs that we probably would not have beaten Miami without Worilds, so thanks for reading and learning. That already made him a much better pick than Jackson (who never helped us in anyway over his career) and Sweed, a big-time, second-round bust but someone that Colbert should not be criticized for taking.

            I call out anyone who criticizes Colbert for taking Sweed, showcasing my objectivity and superior intellect in the process. We needed a WR early in that draft, but would have been reaching to take someone at 23. Although most ended up busts, there was a logjam of late-first/second-round projected picks at WR that year, and Sweed had excellent size that we werre still seeking post-Plax, good speed, offered the downfield threat we really needed at the tine, was a solid blocker at Texas, and was a very productive college player in a big-time winning program, the kind Colbert astutely likes to draft from. While he had some drops as a Rfr. and never had great hands, psychological problems or poor hands were not listed concerns in scouting reports on Sweed. The only reaason he was around mid-second was because of a broken wrist that kept him from doing full workouts. It was a smart pick that did not work out due to the player’s injury and lack of confidence. But we did not reach for the pick, drafted a player at a position of need thinking he had a good shot of being the No. 3 WR as a rookie, and actually got good value for both the position and based on the overall draft-board in the second-round with Sweed.

            I had the same attitude with the Spaeth pick as Worilds. In fact, it made even less sense, because we had a great, young starter locked up long-term in Miller and a solid, blocking No. 2 tight end signed for 2 more years in Tuman. At least with Worilds we had no pure backup OLB on the roster and definitley were going to take on the 2010 draft, and Harrison was getting a little older. Meanwhile, we passed up Yanda in that spot, who had slipped farther than expected and was rated as the top OL left on the board, and great value at a position of need at that point in the draft, neither of which Spaeth did.

          • WillieNelson

            “showcasing my objectivity and superior intellect in the process.”
            HAHA. Did you really just say that? Get over yourself, man. 

            I’m also not sure where you’re getting the idea that 3-4 inside linebackers have never been important in this defense. They’ve had some damn outstanding ones over the years, and Lawrence Timmons is certainly one of them and worthy of the contract he just signed. Somebody else already pointed out in this comment section that he actually received significantly less guaranteed money (the real key for a contract) than guys like Jon Beason and David Harris. 

            And who cares how many Pro Bowls he’s been to? Ben Roethlisberger has only been to one Pro Bowl. I guess that means he’s not worth the money he’s getting. Mike Wallace hasn’t been to a Pro Bowl yet. Better not re-sign him or pay him. 

            You’re crazy, dude. 

    • GlennW

      As always the devil is in the details with regard to the salary cap ramifications of these latest contracts, but I suspect that the Steelers know what they’re doing here, based on their excellent history of keeping their payroll structure well-balanced, present versus future.  By most accounts, the current salary cap of ~$120m will explode and become effectively obsolete after the 2013 season when the TV contracts expire and are re-negotiated upwards, so any committed dollars after 2013 are of lesser importance.  Furthermore, I think the Steelers are still in pretty good shape for both the 2011 and 2012 seasons, where we’re fairly sure that we’ll be operating with most of the current core talent base without need for major free agent upgrades (or at least we’ll take our chances with this talent base– and since when do the Steelers splurge in the free agent market anyway?).

      2013?  Maybe there’s a salary cap problem by that point.  I’m not too worried about it though.  I’m more of a mindset that the Steelers’ operating strategy should be “maximize our chances at a championship while Ben Roethlisberger is still healthy and in his prime”, which might not be for that much longer– who knows?  When you possess one of the very few legitimate franchise QBs in the league, the future is now.

      • ted

        Good points as usual, and I absolutely agree with your last two lines. Of course, that franchise QB might have a longer career if we the front office placed more of a premium on the guys who protect him.

    • Mike_Rav

      Another very large comparison you’re failing to make here is versatility. Woody is an amazing OLB, and that’s unquestionable. But nobody in their right mind would assume he would be able to fill in at ILB, ever. Whereas if needed, and it’s happened a few times, Timmons doesn’t miss a beat dropping down as an OLB. Don’t forget, it took him longer to start as an ILB because he was initially an OLB converted because of his amazing athleticism and instincts.

      And to compare the two at how they each play their positions is ridiculous. That’s like comparing Potsie  to Deebo. Sure they’re both LBs, but they have such massively different roles. I will agree that Woody made more of an impact sooner than Timmons, but that’s because of the nature of the position. For the amount of guaranteed money in the contract, I tend to believe that the organization was able to underpay what Timmons is really worth. Let’s not forget, in every contract, no matter whether its you or me getting a job to do something or you paying for somebody to fix your bathroom, it’s for services to be performed, not what has already been done. If that was the case, we’d be the yankees paying Jeter stupid money for no reason. The Burgh knows where Timmons is going and they made out in this deal more so than Timmons.

      • ted

        You make some good points. However, first, TImmons was nowhere near as good last year in the Miami game at OLB than he was at ILB. Part of that is obviously a lack of experience at that spot, but we sure did “miss a beat” at OLB when he moved over. Moreover, Worilds came in on passing downs  in that game, because he was already a better pass rusher than Timmons. Plus, we spent a second-round on an OLB for DEPTH purposes last year. Worilds better be coming in this year to spelll Harrison and Woodley, or fill in if one is injured or that was about as dumb a strategy for a second-round non-QB pick that you can make in this era.

        Yes, there are plenty of differences between ILBs and OLBs in our scheme. But this is not like comparing centers to point guards. Moreover, all linebackers, regardless of inside or outside, are grouped together on the franchise tag, so their contracts are very much comparable.

        • Mike_Rav

          Wow, now that I honestly didn’t know about the franchise tag grouping, that is a really great point. Although, now that makes me wonder, if we threatened to franchise him, I wonder if he would end up getting that 10m/yr anyway. I wonder what the top 10 salaries would be. But yeah, I honestly didn’t know that ILBs and OLBs were grouped. I’m just happy Timmons stays for a long time. I’m not ready to say he’s on Willis’ level, but I think he can/will be.

          • Ted

            Mike, he would get more than 10 mill a year with the franchise tag, but there would be no signing bonus and no guarantees outside of that one year, which is why players take less per year to sign long-term deal like Woodley just did. The franchise tag is a great negotiating tool. Of course, TImmons’ agent knows that we will likely use that on Polo, assuming he is healthy, wants to play, and we can negotiate with him quick. But if needed, we could have threatened to use it on Timmons. Deal looks a little better when they corrected the story to say 6 years, but I still think we overpaid based on the market for ILBs, and the fact that we should have received a hometown discount for negotiating early and protecting his interests against an injury this fall.

      • K33ger

        Just a point:

        Timmons has been used to replace Polamalu in times past, when he was hurt.  He has that kind of explosiveness and instincts.  Speed does fade, but over how long?  Polamalu has been playing 8 years, and is still extremely quick and explosive.  (i’d argue he’s so quick and explosive, his body can’t handle it, hence the injuries).  

        So I don’t buy he’s going to slow down to the point he will be ineffective.  How old is he?  25?  that’s 5 years before 30.  He should be fine.

    • Callouswhisper

      Better become a pro bowler? Hmm Pro Football Focus had him rated as the #1 ILB league wide last season, if he plays to that level I am fine. Pro bowl is a name contest, Timmons played miles better than Jared freaking Mayo. Oh and on the contract he got 18 million guaranteed, as a comparison Beason got 25 and Harris 26 mill guaranteed. Timmons is far more dynamic and explosive than those 2. Steelers yet again got a great deal on a player in FA that some team no doubt would have broke the bank for.

  • Hoffstra323

    Some quick points… in team sports as we all know u are only as good as the guys around you, and there is no doubt that the Steelers have the best defense in the league. Half of our defense could have made the pro bowl last year. Certain positions provide more freedom and are harder to scheme for, Troy polamalu being the perfect example. My point is that troy, timmons, and harrison all bring a more dynamic game to the table than lamarr woodley. The more you can do, the more valuable you are to your team, and jason worilds is not better than lawrence timmons at anything. Speaking of worilds I think he will end up being a bust, he just does not seem to have the instinct or the tenacity for the NFL. You cant judge lawrence timmons as an outside linebacker from a few snaps in a game against the miami dolphins. I think the deal with Timmons was great for the steelers, even if he is only the second best ilb in the nfl. If anyone got to much money it is woodley, he is not even the best outside linebacker on his team. I don’t mean to hate on Lamarr Woodley. He is a great athlete and I respect his game tremendously, but he is just not as dynamic. Plain and simple.