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

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

The second annual gaming festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center brings 8-bits of weekend fun.
Environmental Art Project to Light Up Pittsburgh Bridge for the Holidays

Environmental Art Project to Light Up Pittsburgh Bridge for the Holidays

Riverlife hopes the temporary project will lead to permanent, decorative lighting of all three of the city's Sister bridges.
Mt. Lebanon Native Daya Nominated for MTV Video Music Award

Mt. Lebanon Native Daya Nominated for MTV Video Music Award

It's the first MTV nomination for the 17-year-old singing sensation.
Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Richard Kohl devoted most of his adult life to caring for homeless large-breed dogs.

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

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
Edit Module

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

The second annual gaming festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center brings 8-bits of weekend fun.

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
A Thyme and Place

A Thyme and Place

Old friends Tricia Cohen and Lisa Graves reconnect via Facebook and collaborate on a historical cookbook.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


Garfield Bar Mixtape Is a Great Hangout (And a Good Bar, Too)

Garfield Bar Mixtape Is a Great Hangout (And a Good Bar, Too)

Part craft-cocktail joint and part coffee bar, the welcoming spot wants you to stay a while.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Optimism With An Asterisk As Good As It Gets In Steelers Training Camp

Optimism With An Asterisk As Good As It Gets In Steelers Training Camp

Although NFL teams never simply pick up where they left off the previous season, there’s reason to believe the 2016 Steelers could resemble the team that came agonizingly close to knocking off the eventual Super Bowl Champion Broncos in Denver last January.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Sanuk’s Yoga Sling Sandal are super comfy yet chic.

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.
"Bad Moms" and a Bad "Bourne" Make For a Rough Weekend

"Bad Moms" and a Bad "Bourne" Make For a Rough Weekend

Reviews of "Jason Bourne" and "Bad Moms," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

This Pittsburgh bride brought all the details together for a flawless “Alice in Wonderland”-themed wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Coming Soon: Historic Lawrenceville Building Ready for Makeover

Coming Soon: Historic Lawrenceville Building Ready for Makeover

Real estate crowd-funding platform Small Change Pittsburgh is raising funds to transform the Butler Street building.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

The university landed in the top 10 schools for disabled students seeking an online education.

Comments