Would a Lawrence Timmons/Steelers reunion make sense for 2018?
For Steelers fans, its the offseason and that means debating ideas and fantasizing about how the 2018 season may shake out.
For those of us who cover the team, we think no differently. Often sites such as ours come up with creative ideas to keep you interested in reading our articles and coming back for more. That type of process often creates “hot takes” or wild, “never in a million years” concepts.
However, I want yinz to hear me out on this one: there is a possibility that a reunion of Lawrence Timmons and the Pittsburgh Steelers could make a lot of sense for both sides. There’s also some reasoning as to why it might not be a great idea either.
Above all, last offseason Lawrence Timmons left the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency and joined the Miami Dolphins on a two-year, $12 million deal. I have to preface the hypothetical situations here by saying that currently, Timmons is going nowhere as he’s still under contract with Miami through the 2018 season.
With that said, here are my thoughts on both sides of a hypothetical situation.
Why it makes sense for Timmons
Does anyone recall when Timmons went AWOL with the Dolphins in Week 2 of the regular season?
The linebacker disappeared from the team’s hotel ahead of their season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, prompting the club to indefinitely suspend him. According to CBS Sports, Timmons behavior started before the trip to L.A. when the Dolphins had to move their bye week up to Week 1 due to Hurricane Irma. Timmons made an unannounced visit to the Steelers practice facility before Pittsburgh’s open to the regular season.
According to several sources, Timmons was allowed into the team facility and watched at least part of practice from the sidelines. Most players and team officials had no idea Timmons would be going to their practice, though a source said he did inform a few coaches of his desire to visit the Steelers. Mike Tomlin was aware but the front office was not, and his presence did seem odd to many given his status with the Dolphins.
Sources said he told former Steelers teammates he wanted to be back in Pittsburgh and said things along of the lines of it was a mistake to have ever left. He caught former teammates, coaches and Steelers officials off guard by his presence there as an under-contract player to another team, but still no one expected what came next.
Sources said when Timmons was tracked down at the airport he told law enforcement that he was trying to get home to Pittsburgh and that he appeared disoriented. Los Angeles police had in fact contacted Pittsburgh police in their efforts to originally locate Timmons, sources said, with the Dolphins believing at one point he may have already returned to Pennsylvania, where his child lives.
Timmons ended up returning to the team a week later and would play 14 games for the Dolphins in one of his worst seasons statistically in his career. Timmons would go without a single sack for the first time since his rookie season (2007) and fail to force a fumble for only the third time in 11 seasons.
If the linebacker truly is homesick and longs to be closer to his kid, a return to Pittsburgh may make more sense for him from an off-field perspective than an on-field one. However, there are other hurdles to overcome.
Why it doesn’t make sense for the Steelers
Timmons’ 2017 production may not merit the money he’s being paid, but the Dolphins are somewhat handcuffed to his $7.25 million cap hit for 2018. However, there’s precedent in Miami and getting rid of former Steelers. The Dolphins signed WR Mike Wallace to a lucrative deal, only to cut ties with the receiver after two seasons, shipping him to the Minnesota Vikings with the team trading draft picks as part of the exchange. Wallace left behind a hefty $6.6 million cap hit when he left the Dolphins in 2015.
Finances are the primary reason for avoiding a trade deal to bring Timmons back. The Steelers would not likely want to assume at the minimum, the $5.4 million base salary Timmons is owed this season. Money was thought to be the primary reason the two sides didn’t come to terms last offseason, with Timmons making roughly $60 million during his ten-year tenure with the Steelers.
There’s also the subject of bringing on a veteran player the team moved on from, who turns 32 years old in May. However, there’s a precedent here as well, with the Steelers bringing back James Harrison from retirement and rolling with James Farrior through his mid-30’s. (Farrior hung up his cleats at age 36.)
Why it doesn’t make sense for Timmons
Money. And playing time.
If Timmons were let go by the Dolphins, the financial aspect of returning to Pittsburgh is documented above. Would he be willing to make less money, while also potentially receiving a reduced role on the defense to come back?
That all depends on the player. If he can’t find a better situation, professionally and financially, elsewhere in the league, and the Steelers came knocking, it could end up being the only option he would have.
Why it makes sense for the Steelers
Inevitably, I envision the Steelers pursuing a free agent linebacker as well as drafting one to find a replacement for the injured Ryan Shazier. While Shazier’s football future has yet to be determined, we can all agree it appears to be in doubt.
Pittsburgh will be focused on adding depth to one of the few weak spots on their roster and could treat the interview process for Shazier’s replacement in much the same way they sought after receivers and cornerbacks last offseason. The Steelers signed free agent WR Justin Hunter while also drafting WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, and quadrupled up at corner by bringing in Coty Sensabaugh and Joe Haden while also drafting Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen.
I expect the Steelers to attack the inside linebacker position in the same way. They have brought back former players who had in the past, like Larry Foote, Antwaan Randle El and Plaxico Burress when they were in a pinch. Sean Spence, who left the team for a year, was signed when Shazier went down with four games left last season.
The team also gave former cornerback Keenan Lewis, previously of the New Orleans Saints, a hard look last offseason.
Therefore, if Timmons became available, it’s something they should at least consider. He knows the system and was productive in it. Even if he were a placeholder for a younger prospect to eventually fill the spot, or brought in for depth or as a situational/rotational player, I doubt he’s the same liability as having Spence in the same position… much like how James Harrison was never intended to be a full-time starter again, he was there in the event of an emergency and ended up saving the Steelers behind when Jarvis Jones never panned out.
In a perfect world, the right price and attitude could see Mike Tomlin’s first-ever draft pick welcomed back with open arms.
I don’t believe he’s the absolute fix for all of the Steelers defensive problems, but at the same time, the veteran leadership and experience couldn’t hurt. Timmons could help groom an heir to himself and/or Ryan Shazier, while also providing a quality depth piece in the event of another major injury giving that side of the ball a blow they couldn’t recover from in 2017.
As a reminder, this would require the first step of the Dolphins setting Timmons free. That step may not happen and all of this speculation on whether Timmons would be a good fit could be all for naught.
But it’s still a solid theory and makes for good reading this offseason. 🙂