Lawrence Timmons Will Turn Out Your Lights

Get to know the man at the heart of the Steelers’ defense.




Photos by Mike Fabus
 

 

Maybe Lawrence Timmons was born to wear black and gold. Maybe he was predestined to be the beating heart of the Steelers’ defense, to lurk in the middle—the beat once patrolled by Hall of Famer Jack Lambert.

Even as a senior at Wilson High School in Florence, S.C., Timmons was already playing Steeler football. He was ranked as the top receiving recruit in the state, but Timmons played both sides of the ball and had a soft spot for smash-mouth. And like the lineage of great Steelers linebackers before him, he did not take kindly to losing.

“It was the end of the lower-state championship game, and we had no hope of winning,” Timmons remembers. “We had the ball and coach called a sweep to run out the clock. I guess I was just mad at the world.”

Timmons was supposed to block a puny cornerback, bow his head and accept defeat. Instead, he turned his sights to the opposition’s star linebacker, churned his legs like a runaway locomotive and single-handedly crashed the victory party.

“I cleaned the guy’s clock,” Timmons deadpans.

“It was one of the hardest hits I’ve ever witnessed,” says Wilson High coach Darryl Page. “Lawrence knocked the guy’s cleats over his helmet.”

The air went out of the stadium. The woozy linebacker uprooted himself from the sod and stood up, flailing like a dancing balloon on a used car lot. One step, two step … drop. He made a snow angel in the mud as time expired. A few teammates jumped around in half-hearted celebration. Most just looked around awkwardly.

“The game was over, and this guy was completely out,” Timmons says. “ The teams huddled up, the coaches gave their speeches, the players saluted the fans and the guy was still laying on the field.”

Timmons finally lets out a smile. “I went out like a champ.”

The story is right at home in the hard-boiled mythology of Steelers linebacking. But Timmons, soft-spoken off the field with his hat tipped low, is not a household name like the great Lambert. Despite leading the team in tackles last season (with 135) and signing a new five-year, $50 million contract this summer, Timmons is so underrated that the sixth result for him on YouTube is a clip of his 5-year-old son, Lawrence Jr., dancing on top of a Big Wheel.

Yet on Sundays, Timmons becomes the faceless blur roving edge to edge on your TV screen, the all-consuming black hole swallowing up running backs, the rabid dog diving headlong into a leaky hole. He may still have all his incisors, but Timmons embraces the unglamorous grunt work that made Lambert a legend in this town. He just might be the next one.

Pittsburgh magazine sat down with Timmons to talk about family, controversies and squealing quarterbacks.
 

You were Mike Tomlin’s first-ever draft pick. Do you guys have a special relationship?
Oh, we definitely have a strong bond. I came in to the league at 20 years old, so he obviously looks at me like a son. Maybe he’s tougher on me because of that. He just wanted me to go through the fire—to go through the wars. But now that I’ve grown up in the system, you can tell he has that proud dad look. During my first year as a starter, I was in his office every week talking to him about anything and everything. It was his first year as an NFL coach, too, so we kind of grew up together—and I think we’re closer because of it.

What lights a fire under you on the off-days? And what keeps you motivated?  
Everybody on this level has it all. A lot of people don’t realize [that] making the transition to the pro game is more mental than physical. You know, I was really close with my grandmother. She passed away when I was in my second year here, and that was really tough for me. But one thing she taught me was the importance of consistency. You’d see this old lady working in her garden every day—no matter if it was rain, sleet or snow. So I try to be like her, working on the little things every single day and, most importantly, staying humble.

Rumor has it you’re hungry for 10 sacks this season.
Double-digit sacks is definitely a big goal for me. I feel like I did a good job against the run and the pass last year, but I dropped the ball a little bit on the sacks. In 2009 I had 7. Last year I had 3.  You can’t go from 7 to 3 and be happy with yourself. In order to be a top tier linebacker, I need to be great in all areas.

Who’s the player you get the most satisfaction out of tackling?  
I’ll say Ray Rice; he’s like a tree stump.

Who’s the toughest guy to bring down?  
My man from Cleveland, Peyton Hillis.

Have you ever made a quarterback squeal with a hard hit?
When we played New England, I got Matt Cassel pretty good. I definitely took some football out of him. He got up screaming, like, “Who the bleep was blocking the back side?!” And then he made some crazy noises.

What did you think of James Harrison’s comments about Ben Roethlisberger in Men’s Journal this summer?  
I obviously thought the controversy was a bit fabricated. I was at Ben’s wedding with James. He loves Ben to death. Everybody in the locker room knows that’s just how Deebo is—he jokes around. He gives it to me a lot, too. I still love him.

Does Harrison really only watch cartoons, or is that an urban legend?
I think it’s true. I go over to his house quite a bit and he’s always got cartoons on.

Who’s the best linebacker in the NFL?  
Outside: James Harrison. Inside: Patrick Willis.

Who’s the most underrated player on the Steelers?  
Antonio Brown. He’s giving us problems on the practice field. That guy is the total package. He can block, run routes across the middle and blow the top off the defense.

What’s one thing you love to do that people would be surprised to know?  
I love to snowboard. I’ve been all over: Seven Springs, Aspen, Killington. I’ve got a Lib-Tech board, matching outfits, everything.

Have you ever wiped out?  
Oh, for sure. I hate the busy days because you’ve got all the little kids in front of you. Can’t fall in front of the kids, man.

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

Thanks to Rick Sebak, we have some rare pictures of the view from the top.
Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

The movie is the first non-documentary to focus solely on the pop artist’s life.
How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

The state-of-the-art playspace is expected to keep more than 100 children entertained.
Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Joe Manganiello's wife told Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” that she's learned to accept his Steelers' obsession but also admits “in the beginning it was kinda weird.”

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

The things that are best about us? They’re not things. They’re ways.
Chris Kunitz: The Penguins' Unassuming Hitmaker

Chris Kunitz: The Penguins' Unassuming Hitmaker

Chris Kunitz wants to dish out a couple hundred more hits, play a couple hundred more games and win a couple more Cups.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

Thanks to Rick Sebak, we have some rare pictures of the view from the top.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Finn and chef de cuisine Becca Hegarty to bring salads, sandwiches, house-baked bread, wine and more to the refurbished Café Carnegie.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

The historic (and purportedly haunted) Harmony Inn is a fine stop for drinks and food.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

The puck drops for the opening of training camp on Friday, and once that happens the Penguins must transition from “champions” into “defending champions.”

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Work It

Work It

A new handbag from Sandra Cadavid’s is perfect for work — or play.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

Reviews of the "Magnificent Seven" remake and "Storks," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

This Pittsburgh couple wanted their guests to be just as content as they were at their wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

Also: If you’re looking to redo a room to invite relaxation, PPG Paints promises a wide variety of soothing colors for 2017.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Ken Gormley began his new tenure by delivering good news to University employees.

Comments