Steelers make history by taking outside linebackers with first two picks

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Jerome T. Nakagawa, Miami Herald
Standout Florida State University linebacker Lawrence Timmons, center, hugs his cousin, Brenda Lee, second from left, as his aunt, Catherine Brown, left, shows her emotion after hearing his name called on television during the first round of the National Football League Draft in Miami Beach, yesterday. Timmons was selected by the Steelers as the team's top selection in the draft this year.
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LISTEN IN:

Steelers coaches and the team's first round draft picks talk with the media about draft day.

Coach Mike Tomlin talks about Timmons

Kevin Colbert talks about why the Steelers picked Timmons first.

Lawrence Timmons talks about being drafted and replacing Joey Porter.

The Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler talks with the media regarding the Steelers' second round pick LaMarr Woodley of Michigan.

Second round pick LaMarr Woodley of Michigan talks with the Pittsburgh media via the phone

Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians talks with the media about the Steelers' third pick tight end Matt Spaeth.

Third round pick Matt Spaeth of Minnesota talks with Pittsburgh media via the phone.

No position on the Steelers has produced more Pro Bowls in history than that of linebacker and none went more ignored in the draft through the years.

They tried to make up for all that neglect yesterday by drafting two outside linebackers with their first two choices for the first time.

As they prepare to celebrate their 75th season, the Steelers selected linebacker Lawrence Timmons, a junior from Florida State. He became only the third linebacker drafted by the Steelers in the first round in franchise history.

Not content with that, the Steelers drafted Michigan's LaMarr Woodley with the 14th pick of the second round. Woodley, who played one season at outside linebacker and two at defensive end, will play outside linebacker with the Steelers. Woodley also will be used as a pass-rush specialist on third downs.

The only two linebackers the Steelers previously drafted in the first round were Huey Richardson in 1991 and Robin Cole in 1977.

Coach Mike Tomlin called Timmons "an outside linebacker who is capable of playing off the line of scrimmage ... on the tight end, has pass rush capabilities." He also has "the RH factor: He is a runner and a hitter and he is a Pittsburgh Steeler."

Timmons, whose father played basketball at Duquesne University in 1976, was long anticipated as a possibility and became more apparent as other players the Steelers coveted were drafted before their turn. The Steelers have only two outside linebackers with real experience after they released Joey Porter in March -- Clark Haggans and James Harrison.

Timmons is a 6-0 1/2, 234-pounder who opted for the draft after his junior season, his only year as a starter.

"He has some Derrick Brooks qualities," Tomlin said, referring to Tampa Bay's 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker who also played at Florida State. "You don't necessarily want to put that on anyone because Brooks is a legendary player, but he runs around and strikes people. He is relentless and he loves the game."

Kevin Colbert, the team's director of football operations, and Tomlin insisted Timmons was the player they wanted over others they thought they had a reasonable chance of drafting. They entertained one inquiry from another team before their pick, but quickly moved to send Timmons' name on a card to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York.

Tomlin also said firmly "we're a 3-4 team" and "he's a right outside linebacker."

As such, Timmons will compete with Harrison, who had moved into Porter's vacated spot at right outside linebacker this spring. Tomlin said Timmons also can play right rush end in a dime defensive scheme, a position Porter also played.

Tomlin praised Timmons' special teams play as well and said he also can play inside in a 3-4 defense if needed. If the Steelers ever move to a 4-3, they feel confident Timmons can play on the outside as well in that scheme.

"I can play the 3-4 and the 4-3 defense like I played at FSU," Timmons said. "And I can rush the passer well and drop back in coverage. I think I can be a very good one in Pittsburgh."

His father, Lindsley Timmons, told his son that Pittsburgh is a "beautiful city -- and it gets cold there."

Colbert said that, unlike Porter, Timmons is a man of few words, and he showed that in a conference call yesterday when, for example, he was asked to describe his strength.

"My versatility."

Two defensive ends the Steelers might have wanted to take with their first-round pick were gone before they had a chance.

Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the eighth pick and Adam Carriker of Nebraska went 13th to the St. Louis Rams.

The Steelers were foiled somewhat when the New York Jets made a trade with Carolina to slip into the No. 14 slot and draft Pitt cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Jaguars wanted Revis and were ready to offer the Steelers a high draft choice to switch with them at No. 17, where Timmons most likely still would be available. The Jets' move killed that.


Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3878.


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